“The driver, 30-year-old Norman Gurley of Michigan, was pulled over for speeding,” dailycaller.com reports. “A highway patrolman noticed wires running to a secret compartment in the car and arrested Gurley, even though there were no drugs in the compartment. The officer also claimed he smelled marijuana in the compartment — giving him probable cause to search it — though none was ultimately discovered. It makes no difference whether police find drugs or not, according to a new Ohio law that prohibits secret compartments.” True story. As TTAG tipster One_if_by_land1776 points out, “welcome to the world of pre-crime.” And say goodbye to Fourth Amendment protections. Anyway, how do you carry in a car? OWB as always for me. You?

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86 Responses to Question of the Day: How Do You Carry in Your Car?

    • If the officer claimed he smelled marijuana, but none was found, does the probable cause get thrown out? Or would a thorough chemical analysis of the car concluding that there wasn’t even any marijuana residue in the car make any difference?

      • I’m not a criminal defense lawyer, but it would seem to me that a search premised on the smell of marijuana ill be illegal if in fact no weed / residue is found. To rule otherwise would create a huge loophole in the law, since there would be no safeguard from keeping police officers from “smelling marijuana” on every circumstance regardless of the facts. I’d bet that the requires some reasonable objective basis for the probable cause determination.

        • Mary Jane is pretty smelly, and the mere fact that it is ultimately established that it is not there now does not mean it was not there before, leaving the residual odor behind. Easy example–especially for ex-smokers (like me). When I smoked, I could not smell the odor at all, but nonsmokers had no difficulty smelling the odor on my hands, clothes, hair, and breath, and in any space where I had smoked in the past. When I quit, I realized the reek I’d been missing for all those years. The same is true for pot–if not moreso. I live in an area where there are bunch of backyard grows (and not too far from substantial acreage). You can smell the ganja from a block away–further the more that is growing. So did the officer have probable cause to believe that the secret compartment might contain contraband, thus authorizing the search? Ummm, yeah.

        • That would be no different than relying on dogs to give probable cause. Probable cause is determined before the search, anything found is allowed even if it is not what caused the probable cause.

        • Mark N: I was trying to get at scientifically verifying that there never was any weed in the car, although how realistic that is, I don’t know. Skyler made the point moot, though.

          Skyler: Okay, I thought that might be so. Still, is that as much of a Fourth Amendment loophole as it seems at first glance?

        • The 4th amendment is already riddled with police loopholes. One of which is the good faith exception. An officer smells weed, that’s enough probable cause right there. That he ends up not finding any is not a vitiating factor for anything. In fact, if he smells weed, finds none, but does end up finding cocaine, you’re busted for the coke.

          Sure, a cop can always just claim he smelled weed as a pretext for an illegal search, and no doubt sometimes some do. At some point we have to accept that we can’t legislate or litigate every conceivable scenario. Ultimately it comes down to professionalism and integrity among law enforcement. Or not, and the system and society both suffer for it. After all, smell or no smell, a cop can always just plant a joint on you and skip some steps.

          Take note this is a serious risk of advertising for TSA jobs as they do on the back of D.C. area pizza delivery boxes. You have to hunt ducks where they fly, as we say in Texas, and selecting quality candidates starts with pulling from an appropriate pool of candidates. Loving deep dish pepperoni, however, isn’t quite a high enough bar for me for such a sensitive position.

      • I believe he is charged under the “No secret compartments” law which was discovered due to visible wires and so has nothing to do with whether or not the cop smelled weed.

        Moral of this story: Governments make stupid laws and you need to be more careful – hide the damn wires!

  1. How can it be a “secret compartment” if the trooper noticed it from a simple visual inspection?

    These words, I don’t think they mean what they think they mean.

      • Technical smartassery aside, the point here is that the existence of a compartment within this citizen’s car supposedly put him in violation of the law and got him arrested. De facto proof that we have arrived at the American police state.

        I’m sorry, but I can put compartments wherever I damn well please, secret or not, in my property and as long as I don’t use them for illegal activities its none of the government’s fucking business if they’re there or not. And they CERTAINLY can’t violate my rights just because those compartments are present. The fact that Ohio apparently has a law making it illegal to possess certain *spaces* doesn’t strike anyone else as insane?

        Once again, when government actions show that the government does not consider itself beholden to the law, the citizenry is soon to start asking itself why it should be…

        • This is some bad law that came about last year or so. Gun groups in Ohio got it modified a little to try and cover people using gun safes. Basically, if the compartment isn’t factory and they find residue or any evidence of drugs, it’s a violation. Factory glove compartments would be exempt from the ‘hidden compartment’ charge.

    • In Ohio, a loaded sidearm in plain sight is considered concealed. Even on a motorcycle, the law requires a CHL to carry a loaded sidearm; even open carry (since 2005?). However, other, less magical property is properly considered concealed for purposes of probable cause when it isn’t in plain sight. It’s been pretty screwed up in Ohio for a very long time. This law about ‘secret compartments’ came about a year or so ago. If driving in Ohio, it might be wise to keep your vehicle factory with respect to cavities and boxes. 🙁

    • Very interesting conclusion – and for years I used to snuggle my snubbie (S&W 646, that is) under my left thigh while driving my truck through dangerous neighborhoods. (I was hijacked for a load of flat screens Christmas 2008.) And the closest I ever came to the KGB was my ex-wife used to date a KGB Colonel when she was in university in St. Petersburg. (Not Putin.)

      When I was less concerned for my immediate safety I slipped that little J-Frame inside my right-hand work glove and put it on the passenger seat.

      Several obvious problems with this video, however – Not a single mention of “Lock the fvcking doors and roll up the windows!” No comment about muzzling yourself or your passengers when holstering or drawing the weapon. And can’t somebody donate a blue gun to this guy? Bad enough he racked the slide four or five times, but he still had a magazine in the handle! This is supposed to be a gun expert we take advice from?

      One last thing – muzzling your thigh issues aside – why not stick that Velcro holster to the car seat under your leg?

  2. The same way I carry outside the car. If I’m going into a situation that does not allow me to carry legally it goes into a locked 50 cal ammo can that’s secured to the vehicle.

    • I used this method in California in my pickup truck. Bolted that can between the seats and attached a hasp and padlock to the front. If I spotted a cop in the mirror all I had to do was snap the lock closed and I was secure from inspection even thought there was a loaded pistol in the box. Very important NOT to have the key to that box on your key-ring, however, so if asked you can claim you cannot open it. Keys are very easy to hide. Theoretically, at least, the LEO cannot force you to open that box without a warrant and (also theoretically) he needs some probable cause to get that warrant. This is not legal advice – YMMV.

  3. What a waste of time…. with a bunch of theoretical mounting locations and nameless “universal” products. I keep in my holster on my side…. all the time even driving…. or I move my gun to inside breast pocket of my “gun vest”. If I do “mount” in the car, I put it in the door lower storage box/compartment….. If I have a threat in my car I am likely going to use my car to get away or as a weapon….. PS the gun should ALWAYS be in a holster with trigger covered.

    • Depends. Usually in a holster between the seat and console. I’ve found exactly zero waistband holsters that work with the seatbelt fastened. Although some jacket or coat pocket holsters do okay.

      Don’t believe the plan to run over pedestrians is really much of a plan. Better than planning to drive away though.

      • It worked in the NYC biker case until he had the bright idea to drive into city traffic. He would have only had to drive an hour or so till they ran out of gas.

        • Also, on the open road, at speed, motorcycles are no match for a Range Rover and he had already showed them he was not opposed to driving over a downed motorbike and rider.

  4. While this case involves the legality of concealed secret compartments in a vehicle and the officer’s observations regarding the scent of marijuana, the video specifically references mounting weapons in a vehicle, not necessarily “concealing” it.

    Regardless, I believe Ohio law requires the legal concealed carry of a weapon on one’s person while in a vehicle.

  5. The 2014 Chevy Impala has a built in, digitally locking secret compartment. I guess it is illegal in Ohio.

  6. My belt has a secret compartment on it for storing spare cash, would it be illegal to wear this belt while driving or riding in a car in Ohio?

  7. This isn’t news. The courts have decided already that your 4th Amendment right against illegal search and seizure ends when you walk out the front door of your house. Police don’t need a warrant to search your car, or your person. All they need is “probable cause”. And guess what? If the cop asks to search your car and you say no, you’ve just given him probable cause because “you didn’t consent, you must be hiding something”. if the cop asks to search your car, he’s GOING to search your car with or without your permission.

    • If they ask, then say no. That being said, I work for the local DA and you wouldn’t behind the lack of innocent people.

    • The 4th amendment does continue to guarantee your right against unreasonable searches outside your home. An officer cannot search your pockets because he doesn’t like your face, and refusing to allow them to search your vehicle is not probable cause. Evidence gets thrown out all of the time because of bad searches.

    • Actually, the case law is universally clear that not consenting to a search does not provide “probable cause” for a search on the basis that “you must have something to hide.”

      • Agreed. If you refuse, the officer will need a warrant He may threaten to hold you until they get one unless you consent–but it is really nothing but a ploy. (Many will allow the search so as to be on their way.) If he does not have probable cause to search without your consent, then he won’t be getting a warrant anytime soon either.

        Moreover, the Fourth does not protect against all searches–only “unreasonable” searches. A search supported by probable cause is a “reasonable” search, whether it is in or outside your home. So yes, Virginia, the fourth does apply outside the home, with limited and pretty well-defined exceptions.

  8. Actually, Ohio does not prohibit hidden compartments. Hidden compartments that are used to transport illegal drugs are illegal (duh). The law explicitly states that a hidden compartment in your vehicle to store guns or other valuables is perfectly legal.

    This guy got arrested because Officer Tough-guy wanted to be a dick and it should get thrown out pretty quickly.

      • Yes, we do. We also work to get them trained or fired. However, we also risk many in the online gun owning community labeling us as jerks and attention seekers. The only effective way we’ve found to cull the ranks of these ‘officer tough guys’ is to let them do their thing at an encounter and shine a spotlight on their behavior. We risk risk prosecution AND scorn from the gun owning community but it has to be done by someone otherwise we just end up with even more of these types of officers.

  9. In my truck, between the seats, butt up.
    In the land rover, the door pocket.
    Still looking for a decent cross draw holster that isn’t impeded by the seat belt.

    • +1 to between the seats. I use that method if I end up driving longer distances.

      Otherwise if I am running errands I leave my gun in the holster on my belt.

  10. The 1986 FBI shootout with Platt and Maddox provided a valuable lesson for vehicle carry. Unless the weapon is secured on your person, it may become inaccessible in the event of a crash.

  11. I tend to leave my primary in it’s holster about 4 o’clock. I’m a small guy with a big SUV and it’s neither uncomfortable nor difficult for me to draw from this position. Often though I keep a secondary either on me or in the console and when driving overly far my secondary often ends up in the console because it’s easier to get to than my primary.

    That said, I’ve been reading about this ‘secret compartment’ law in my home state and I’m beyond incensed and more than little worried. The very nature of the thing, legislating against having a hiding place, is so vague and prone to abuse that it seems unlikely (I’m hoping) that it can pass constitutional muster. For that matter I can’t fathom the states interest in eliminating hiding places, it’s as if the concept of the 4th amendment were somehow excised from the minds of the legislature and it will now be up to the courts to re-educate them Re: the constitutional rights of the people. Let us hope it is so.

  12. Sneaky Pete holster in driver side door bin with flap lifted over top rail for easy access if needed. Usually have Ruger LCR .38 caliber hallow point rounds loaded and 5 rounds in a speed loader. Always have it if driving FM country roads to and from our Hill Country property. It’s 60 miles of rural roads, not the place to be if vehicle breaks down, waiting for AAA tow truck to show up.

  13. DeSantis IWB canted, right side. Comfortable to drive and (relatively) easy to draw while driving if necessary.

    • Same with my SR9c IWB at @3:00. As long as I’m carrying the 10 round mag instead of the longer 17 round it is comfortable in the holster while driving and still accessible. I do have to make sure that no clothing is bunched up to restrict access to the handle.

  14. The problem is, if a trooper wants into your car he only need speak the magic words “I smell the odor of Marijuana.”

    No consent to search?Never smoked weed in your car ever?Too bad, the officer smells pot anyway.Get out and bend over.

    • Happened to me. Cop even was able to demand my keys when he wanted into the trunk (the release broke shortly after I bought it). He has the camera rolling of course… but the camera doesn’t record smellio, just audio and video.

      I’ve decided to simply avoid that county (Montague, in TX) in future; a google search shows corruption in the Sheriff’s office bigtime (though this guy was a state cope), and I’ve heard bad stories about driving US-287 from Amarillo to Dallas with non-Texas plates

      • Reminds me of 60 Minutes I saw years ago about corrupt cops in western Louisiana pulling over out of state drivers for “speeding” (of as little as 1 mph over the posted limit on an interstate), then searching vehicles from top to bottom, threatening to go to the local magistrate for a warrant if consent was not forthcoming. They caught the whole “show” on video (including the speedometer on the rental car pegged at 55 on cruise control). Always wondered what became of that.

        • As I recall they were targeting high-end rental cars (Lincoln Town Cars, etc.) and also liked to claim: “Improper use of lanes” that the driver was wandering all over the road. Once in the trunk they would plant a small bag of weed, arrest the driver and passenger, and confiscate the vehicle under state law, to be sold at auction to enhance the local coffers. Don’t recall if any of the drivers were actually prosecuted since I think the idea was just to confiscate the cars.

          Don’t know for sure, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the vehicle was sold to an accomplice at the auction for a low price, then re-sold on the open market, with legal title, so individuals could line their pockets.

          After the incident where the reporters planted videos all over the car and the one in the trunk caught the Deputy planting the drugs the FBI was called in on the case and a lot of LEOs went to jail.

  15. So if I ever get a Dodge Dart I’m in violation of Ohio law because it has a secret compartment in the front passenger seat?

  16. Appendix carry, leave it on my body to protect it against it flying all over they place in the event of a crash. Also very easy to draw while seated.

  17. It stays in my holster. If I have to disarm myself for any reason, it goes into a small safe that’s secured under the seat.

  18. Ah yes, the ol’ I smelled marijuanna gag…

    When you can’t find probable cause, just make it up, policing 101.

    • See my comment above about the .50 cal ammo can. You may want to review changes in California law, however, since it was about 20 years ago that I lived in Orange county.

  19. OWB holster at about 3 o’clock. Works OK for the ol’ bucket seat. It improved when I went from a full size to a compact CZ-75; a good trade, two rounds less in the gun (no effect on the second mag) for less jabbing by the muzzle, especially on those odd occasions where I do IWB.

  20. I have been actually playing around with a strong side cross draw setup. Since I ride both a motorcycle and drive a car.

    Anyone else carrying cross draw IWB? Recommend a good cross draw rig? The Comptac neutral cant that I have is ok, but not great.

    • I see no point to carrying on my bike. Pistol goes in my jacket pocket, but unless the bad guys are willing to wait while I take off my gloves, unzip my reflective vest, unvelcro,THEN unzip my jacket pocket I’m SOL anyway.

  21. On my person. Some western states make CCW in your car depend on the gun being on your person. Read the fine print on the law, folks.

    • Very good advice, DG. In Washington state the law reads that the pistol (if it is loaded) must be on your person, but the state AG has published the opinion that it can be anywhere in the car (I suspect within arm’s reach) and still be within the law.

      It is still a very good idea to review your local (unconstitutional) laws before deciding on how you will carry in the car, AND to review the laws of any other state you may contemplate driving through.

      • Hey Cliff – I CC in WA State also, and frankly the more I read the vehicle part of the RCW, the more vague it sounds. If you could point me to the AG opinion, I’d sure ‘pursheate it.

        Keeping on topic, M&P .40 Shield, Kydex OWB @ 3:30.
        Can’t even feel it in my F150. (The pistol).

  22. Since I drive a small car with wraparound bucket seats, drawing from a 4 o’clock position while seated just isn’t going to happen. So I’m really interested in these: https://grassburr.com/mounted-personal-handgun-solutions

    They seem to be well made, and if it’s in black, against my black center console by my right knee, and inside my darkly tinted car, it meets the standard for “concealed from plain view,” in my opinion. I have a permit, so I can put my gun pretty much anywhere in the car I feel like and it will be legal. So I’m thinking hard about buying myself a late Christmas present.

  23. In hand, hanging out the window, other hand with middle finger raised, driving with my knees.

    ‘F*** the police’ playing loudly on repeat.

    • Perhaps “Cop Killer by Ice T would be better? Or you could rotate them.

      And why the hell limit yourself to a pistol in this case, wouldn’t the muzzle of an AK be more appropriate (or a Tech 9)?

  24. I saw this yesterday. This is a measure of how far the Rule of Law has broken down in this country.
    The trooper wasn’t fired; that’s all you need to know.

    The guy might as well have been arrested because his glove compartment “may have contained” a micro-nuke.

    YES, micro-nukes do exist, and have been used in this country. Doubts? Get over it.

  25. “Smelling marijauna” is a point of contention lately and seems to be what I hear that police use as a tactic to search. This is the very reason that during a traffic stop you keep your doors locked and roll your window down a half inch. You can slip your DL, registration and insurance through to the officer. He will ask you to roll it down more and you simply reply “I hear you just fine”. After that you make no other statements or comments. You also do not have anything on display the officer can see such as a handgun. Police will stop a vehicle for tail light out knowing full well it will probably lead to something better. Most drivers answer questions. Don’t. You do not have to at anytime. You can say “I do not answer questions” and that is your final words. Do not answer about drinking, weapons etc. It is his burden of proof in court, do not give him the cause to search. Say nothing and you have given no cause and no consent. Officer Keensniffer will have a hard time telling the judge he could smell anything through a slightly open window. If you have encountered Officer Nazi who pulls his sidearm and orders you out based on your refusal to answer questions or roll your window down then comply but grab your keys and lock your door as you exit while putting keys in your pocket.
    If you live in a place that requires no warrant and motorists are gunned down regularly then move. But do not take that “Cops do what they want” to your new hometown. That attitude is what creates this mess to begin with. Our society is most ignorant on Rights and have “learned” everything from TV shows.
    Never talk to a cop, ever, never, for any reason. You don’t swing your front door open without seeing a warrant so do not roll your window down either. And do not argue with me, I am right.

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