John Kasich gave a speech at the Highway Patrol Academy announcing a couple of law enforcement initiatives.  The Dispatch obliged with a positive headline:  “State takes aim at drug trafficking.”

According to a longer article in the Dispatch, Kasich is pushing two new law enforcement initiatives:  (1) a new law making it a felony to own a vehicle with concealed compartments; and (2) “severe warning signs” on highways to deter drug dealers.

Both ideas are nuts and are unlikely to remove any illegal drugs from the streets.

The law making it a felony to own a vehicle with concealed compartments has a number of problems.  We will have to wait until we get the exact language from Senator Hughes, to be sure, but the idea by itself is unnecessary and seems more like likely to target innocent Ohioans than drug dealers.  The law is unnecessary because Ohio law already prohibits the possession of “criminal tools.”  R.C. 2923.24.

A “criminal tool” is anything that can be used in the commission of a crime.  But the important thing about the current law is that the prosecution must prove that you actually intended to commit a crime before you can be convicted.

Kasich’s proposed law seems to stand this basic principle of criminal law – intent – on its head.  It seems that merely having a secret compartment in a car – no matter what the reason – would be a crime.  The author of this post has a hidden compartment to store some expensive golf clubs in his car; I keep them there because I like to store the clubs in my car, but sometimes park in not so nice neighborhoods and don’t want to invite someone to break into my car to steal them.  Now – I am committing a felony just by having the secret compartment?  What about the hunter who stores ammunition in a secret compartment in a car?  Also a felon.

Another problem with removing intent from the law will be that innocent borrowers of a car with a secret compartment could be prosecuted.  Let’s imagine that son has a pickup with a secret compartment for transporting drugs.  Son lends the car to his grandmother so she can move her belongings.  If grandmother is stopped and the police discover the compartment, grandmother is heading to prison for up to 18 months, even if no drugs are present and she didn’t know about the compartment.

The Dispatch article suggests that perhaps only “owning” a car with a secret compartment is a crime.  Anyone who knows anything about how drug couriers operate knows this is completely useless.  Drug couriers often use borrowed, stolen or rental cars.  It would be extremely rare for a drug courier to use his or her own vehicle.

But the secret compartment provision is nowhere near as useless as the idea of putting up “severe warning signs.”  How many drug couriers will be deterred from traveling Ohio’s Interstate’s because a sign at the border warns them that they are committing a crime?  Seriously?  Does Kasich truly believe that signs are all we need to deter crime?  Instead of spending all of that money on extra security at his house, perhaps Kasich should have just put up a sign saying, “Severe Consequences for Assaulting the Governor.”

Kasich’s next drug crime fighting proposal:  hire skywriters to say, “don’t do drugs.”  That will certainly bring down drug trafficking in Ohio.

But why stop there.  Kasich’s idea has all sorts of practical uses.  I suggest we can stop kids from peeing in the pool by putting up signs saying “Don’t urinate in the water or you will get in severe trouble.”  I hope in the comments readers will suggest other crimes that can be deterred through this cost effective system.

 

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