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View Full Version : Legality of Hidden Compartment?


DiscoBayJoe
11-15-2008, 2:10 PM
Hey All,

I drive a Jeep Wrangler. Jeeps are notoriously bad for break-ins and at times the jeep is wide-open (no top or doors). I don't have the Out-of-Sight/Out-of-Mind luxury that most vehicles provide with a trunk.

I'm not looking for feedback on the risk of leaving a gun in a car unattended. What i'm looking for is a solution to secure and transport briefly/occasionally in my vehicle. I understand the Glove Box & Center Console are not considered locked contaiers, but you can lock them in locked containers and then put them inside either. Unfortunatly my glove box is already a ham-radio/electronics locker with no room. There are some 3rd party "security" center console/glove box options, but I really am not too excited with those solutions.

When poking around looking for a good/discreet place to put a center-of-mass type container, I found a fairly large factory void behind a easy-to-remove plastic trim panel in the dash. It would be fairly easy for me to make a piece of locking sheetmetal with a remote controlled release. With very slight modifications I could attach the plastic trim to the container door so it would be completely hidden to the casual observer and fairly resistant to theft/tampering if somehow discovered.

- What is the legality of "hidden compartments"?
- How complex would the Locking mechanism need to be to be considered Locked?
- Would any of this need to be certified by the DOJ (container, lock, etc)?

My goal would not be to hide items from LEO's, but rather to protect/secure my property and comply with CA concealable weapon transportation laws.

sorensen440
11-15-2008, 2:12 PM
"Hidden compartments" are perfectly legal (just dont put anything illegal in them)

I use one of the 3 dial combo locks and only spin one of the dials

no need to be certified by doj

Californio
11-15-2008, 6:20 PM
I had a flat tool box in my CJ7 that set under my rear seat. It was trimmed in carpet and it could not be seen, blended well. Welded in dividers in to the box so the top of my main tool box at home could be lifted in. One compartment fit a pistol case.

Box could be locked.

ilbob
11-15-2008, 6:57 PM
"Hidden compartments" are perfectly legal

Is that official legal advice?

I don't know about CA but they are quite illegal in Illinois, although I had read at some point that the Illinois SC had ruled at least part of the statute unconstitutional.

Decoligny
11-15-2008, 7:27 PM
Is that official legal advice?

I don't know about CA but they are quite illegal in Illinois, although I had read at some point that the Illinois SC had ruled at least part of the statute unconstitutional.

You ought to know be now that "official legal advice" doesn't exist on this site.

I can tell you however that I have searched through the CA Penal Codes and have never come across anything that makes having a hidden compartment illegal.

For "official legal advice" contact an attorney. Here you will receive references to each of our own experiences and personal knowledge, nothing more nothing less.

Illinois realized that the law was unconstitutional so the appelate court threw it out.

Court protects secret compartments in cars
September 27, 2006
BY STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter
For the last six years, anyone driving a vehicle with a secret compartment built into it was committing a felony.
Tuesday, the Appellate Court of Illinois declared that law unconstitutional -- saying that while it was intended to deter people from hiding guns and drugs in a car, it was written so broadly, anyone could be charged with violating it.

At issue was the 2004 conviction of repeat felon Derrick Carpenter, arrested by Chicago police after officers found a BB gun in the airbag compartment of the van he was in.

p7m8jg
11-15-2008, 7:35 PM
Is that official legal advice?

I don't know about CA but they are quite illegal in Illinois, although I had read at some point that the Illinois SC had ruled at least part of the statute unconstitutional.

Not illegal in California......you can have all the hidden compartments you want in your house or car. Just don't put anything Illegal in them, as stated above.

Nobody gives legal advice on a forum such as this. But I think you'd be hard pressed to find a statute (law) in Kalifornia that makes it illegal...

hawk1
11-15-2008, 7:44 PM
Maybe this will help het you in the right direction.

12026.1.

(1) The firearm is within a motor vehicle and it is locked in the
vehicle's trunk or in a locked container in the vehicle other than
the utility or glove compartment.


(c) As used in this section, "locked container" means a secure
container which is fully enclosed and locked by a padlock, key lock,
combination lock, or similar locking device.


12026.2. (a) Section 12025 (12025 which is guilty of carrying a concealed firearm) does not apply to, or affect, any of the
following:


(d) As used in this section, "locked container" means a secure
container which is fully enclosed and locked by a padlock, keylock,
combination lock, or similar locking device. The term "locked
container" does not include the utility or glove compartment of a
motor vehicle.

Pvt. Cowboy
11-15-2008, 8:07 PM
You're going to have to give me some time to find it, but I believe that using a secret compartment in a vehicle to transport concealed firearms or narcotics is itself a separate felony charge.

That Snoop Doggy Dogg character got charged with this a few year ago.

Decoligny
11-15-2008, 9:03 PM
You're going to have to give me some time to find it, but I believe that using a secret compartment in a vehicle to transport concealed firearms or narcotics is itself a separate felony charge.

That Snoop Doggy Dogg character got charged with this a few year ago.

The news story on this incident simply says they tried to charge him with having a secret compartment, along with having a gun and marijuana, he plead no contest to the felony charges for the gun and the marijuana. But seeing as there is nothing in the penal code making a secret compartment illegal, they found out that the crime of having a secret compartment doesn't even exist.
The fact that he also has a 1990 cocaine trafficking felony conviction means that he is not allowed to possess a gun, having it either loaded, or concealed, or just having it is a crime.

Rumpled
11-15-2008, 10:53 PM
I'd stay away from a dash hide, too many would call that about the same as a glovebox.
In my wrangler I had a steel compart that filled a back seat foot well. Blended in real nice and held much more than 1 1911.

They also make one that is a total floor cover about 4-6" high - doesn't work with a back seat, I think.

EMPEROR8
11-16-2008, 1:13 AM
I have a Dodge Magnum and I also don't have any trunk. I saw this Medium size fire proof vault (Sentry Vault), Is it legal if I mount that vault in the cargo area.

Anthonysmanifesto
11-16-2008, 1:37 AM
I found this- ill throw it up for discussion

Section 11366.8 of the Health and Safety Code (http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=hsc&group=11001-12000&file=11364-11376)

11366.8. (a) Every person who possesses, uses, or controls a false
compartment with the intent to store, conceal, smuggle, or transport
a controlled substance within the false compartment shall be punished
by imprisonment in a county jail for a term of imprisonment not to
exceed one year or in the state prison.
(b) Every person who designs, constructs, builds, alters, or
fabricates a false compartment for, or installs or attaches a false
compartment to, a vehicle with the intent to store, conceal, smuggle,
or transport a controlled substance shall be punished by
imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months or two or three years.

(c) The term "vehicle" means any of the following vehicles without
regard to whether the vehicles are private or commercial, including,
but not limited to, cars, trucks, buses, aircraft, boats, ships,
yachts, and vessels.
(d) The term "false compartment" means any box, container, space,
or enclosure that is intended for use or designed for use to conceal,
hide, or otherwise prevent discovery of any controlled substance
within or attached to a vehicle, including, but not limited to, any
of the following:
(1) False, altered, or modified fuel tanks.
(2) Original factory equipment of a vehicle that is modified,
altered, or changed.
(3) Compartment, space, or box that is added to, or fabricated,
made, or created from, existing compartments, spaces, or boxes within
a vehicle.

a couple of years ago the term firearm was thrown into this in a bill (http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/postquery?bill_number=ab_336&sess=PREV&house=B&author=huff), but the bill failed...

nick
11-16-2008, 9:52 AM
with the intent to store, conceal, smuggle, or transport
a controlled substance

SOunds like the intent isn't there. Which still doesn't prevent an arrest by an overzealous LEO. But then, does anything prevent that these days? :)

Mulay El Raisuli
11-17-2008, 8:49 AM
You ought to know be now that "official legal advice" doesn't exist on this site.

I can tell you however that I have searched through the CA Penal Codes and have never come across anything that makes having a hidden compartment illegal.

For "official legal advice" contact an attorney. Here you will receive references to each of our own experiences and personal knowledge, nothing more nothing less.

Illinois realized that the law was unconstitutional so the appelate court threw it out.

Court protects secret compartments in cars
September 27, 2006
BY STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter
For the last six years, anyone driving a vehicle with a secret compartment built into it was committing a felony.
Tuesday, the Appellate Court of Illinois declared that law unconstitutional -- saying that while it was intended to deter people from hiding guns and drugs in a car, it was written so broadly, anyone could be charged with violating it.

At issue was the 2004 conviction of repeat felon Derrick Carpenter, arrested by Chicago police after officers found a BB gun in the airbag compartment of the van he was in.


And here we see the value of criminal defense. The law in question wasn't just unconstitutional, it was stupid on its face. Inspired by the same mind-set that leads to gun control (if we outlaw the ability to hide things, people won't hide things). DiscoBayJoe has the same desire I have, to keep his stuff safe from theft. A worthy goal. Even more so considering he (and I) want to keep guns from being stolen.

The fact that it was a "repeat felon" defended in order to have this POS law tossed bothers some people. Some (maybe even most) here would be bothered if the NRA provided the defense for Mr. Carpenter.

I wouldn't. The law was crap & fully deserved to be stuck down. Just like the laws against LOC & CCW deserve to be struck down. Now, we could wait until we have a 'pure' defendant to defend. Or we could 'carefully craft' some sort of civil suit to attack such a law. But that could wind up taking years. I see here that instead of waiting years, the people of IL stopped having to worry about this POS 4 years ago.

So, a question for DiscoBayJoe (and everyone else); are you happy that what you're planning has legal precedent working for you? Even though that precedent is from IL, the legal reasoning can work in CA courts as well. Or would you rather wait for several years to have a favorable ruling? For myself, I'm happy that I don't have to worry about doing this. That a 'repeat felon' was the tool used doesn't bother me a bit. Again, it is the what being defended that matters, not the who.

The Raisuli

megavolt121
11-17-2008, 9:03 AM
Sounds like the way you plan on making such a compartment it truely will be hidden and undetecable. If so, then don't worry as no one will ever see it.

BillCA
11-17-2008, 9:34 AM
If you create a locking compartment in your dash, be sure you configure it to either use some kind of key lock or combination lock. I would not connect any kind of electrical release to the locking mechanism for "rapid deployment" as it would likely be deemed illegal.

Let's suppose, for the sake of argument, you bolt a lockable gun container behind your dashboard. Let's further suppose you have a plastic "trim cover" that hides the key-lock and door to the container. To access, you have to remove the trim cover and use a key to open the container. Great.

To avoid legal complications if some capitol hill nitwit modifies 11366.8 H&S as in Anthony's post above, the inside of the door to the container could be labeled "Anti-Theft Gun Box". You could use this label to argue that the box existed in order to secure the firearm pursuant to state law.

They'd have to seriously reword 11366.8(d) to make it work for a firearm though. If they just added "firearm" to the statute, it would conflict with the requirement to secure a handgun in a "completely enclosed locking container" -- which would conceal or hide the gun.

MaceWindu
11-17-2008, 9:54 AM
You ought to know be now that "official legal advice" doesn't exist on this site.

Why are you looking for "legel advice" on the internet? :confused:

If it's hidden do you care if it's legal or not? :confused:

Hence: "hidden" :rolleyes:

Mace

battlehatch
11-17-2008, 10:10 AM
I would be careful with hidden compartments. I would less inclined to worry about it if the hidden compartment is in a trunk area or cargo area way out of reach. But if you make a hidden compartment in the passenger area of the car, I would be worried about it being considered a "glove box" even if it is a locking box. We all know that the glovebox is a no-no when it comes to firearms transport. I have been told by very respectable and reputable search and seizure instructors that even a trunk that has "through the back seat" access can be considered a "glove box".

On top of that, once you make a hidden compartment, it's no longer a separate locked container. I would think that it's now part of the car and considered a glove box. But that's my civilian non-lawyer average joe interpretation of it....

As far as the legality of secret compartments, the laws in CA pertaining to it are written as it regards to transport of illegal substances and contraband.

Ironchef
11-17-2008, 10:56 AM
I recall this debate several months ago and I believe it hinged on some of what battlehatch is saying above (though I think some of what you're saying is fud). I recalled the debate being centered around bolting a secure box/vault to the car and whether it then became a part of the car like a utility box is (especially if it's in the front row seating area of a car)...vs. having a chained or otherwise secured box attached to under the seat or some other part of the car. But then I think someone said that unless FORD made that box (or whoever the car manufacturer is made that compartment) it was not considered part of the car.

So while I take comfort in the ease others above have said it's completely legal, I have to take caution and consider that some cops may not be so resolute in passing a locked down compartment as lawful..and then of course the potential legal fees in court proving you were ok all along. Might be good to get some LEO opinions on how they handle such a compartment and what they call it, etc, etc..but of course that's impossible to know the consensus of all LEOs by interviewing a few.

Good question. I'd simply carry my gun in a locked container/attache/case when I left my car for work/shopping/going home.

battlehatch
11-17-2008, 1:00 PM
FUD or not, when it comes to transporting firearms, is it really worth it to walk that line? It's a lame misdo that can really screw things up. It's not as if it's worth it like OLL and BB's.

This is potential legal issues over something as simple as a separate locked container.

I have kicked around the idea of having a hidden compartment in my vehicle, but the risk/reward factor is just not there. You touched on it in your post, even if you proved your case, do you really win?

I guess what I am trying to say is that everyone knows that there are uninformed/misinformed LEO's out there that jump the gun. It doesn't cost them nearly as much as it costs you. I know officers that can't agree on what "loaded" means even though it's stated in the PC.

Decoligny
11-17-2008, 2:15 PM
I would be careful with hidden compartments. I would less inclined to worry about it if the hidden compartment is in a trunk area or cargo area way out of reach. But if you make a hidden compartment in the passenger area of the car, I would be worried about it being considered a "glove box" even if it is a locking box. We all know that the glovebox is a no-no when it comes to firearms transport. I have been told by very respectable and reputable search and seizure instructors that even a trunk that has "through the back seat" access can be considered a "glove box".

On top of that, once you make a hidden compartment, it's no longer a separate locked container. I would think that it's now part of the car and considered a glove box. But that's my civilian non-lawyer average joe interpretation of it....

As far as the legality of secret compartments, the laws in CA pertaining to it are written as it regards to transport of illegal substances and contraband.

The OP was talking about a place to conceal a "Center Mass" Gun Safe, which is a locking container in and of itself. If he locked the gun in the Center Mass Gun Safe and then put that into the glove compartment, he would be perfectly legal. And if he put the gun locked in the safe into the hidden compartment, it too would be perfectly legal even if it was considered a glove compartment.

eta34
11-17-2008, 2:16 PM
Well, considering I am a LEO who deals with narcotics, I would caution you against hidden compartments. In my experience, I have only seen them associated with drug dealers who use them to transport large amounts of narcotics. These are generally hidden behind false panels and such. The example of a "Center Mass" gun safe is much different and more legit in my book.

The key phrase in the penal code is "intent to transport narcotics." IF you are not doing that, you should be ok. However, you may run into an uninformed LEO who may hook you up anyway.

p7m8jg
11-17-2008, 2:26 PM
In my experience (also LEO and also prosecutor) I've never heard of anyone being prosecuted (let alone arrested) for simply having a lockable, concealed, compartment in their vehicle. Can't say it never has happened, but I've never heard of it.

If drugs are involved - you're toast. But most of those compartments are just concealed (tires, rocker panels, gas tanks, etc) and not lockable.

Get a box. Bolt it to the floor - frame, whatever. Put a lock on it. Go shooting. Have fun. The sun is going to go out in a bazillion years anyway, so make hay while the sun shines...

Inoxmark
11-17-2008, 2:50 PM
... a couple of years ago the term firearm was thrown into this in a bill (http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/postquery?bill_number=ab_336&sess=PREV&house=B&author=huff), but the bill failed...
... as did another more recent bill (http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/postquery?bill_number=ab_278&sess=CUR&house=B&author=huff) by the same author.

eta34
11-17-2008, 7:57 PM
In my experience (also LEO and also prosecutor) I've never heard of anyone being prosecuted (let alone arrested) for simply having a lockable, concealed, compartment in their vehicle. Can't say it never has happened, but I've never heard of it.

If drugs are involved - you're toast. But most of those compartments are just concealed (tires, rocker panels, gas tanks, etc) and not lockable.

Get a box. Bolt it to the floor - frame, whatever. Put a lock on it. Go shooting. Have fun. The sun is going to go out in a bazillion years anyway, so make hay while the sun shines...

I agree with this one 100%. Bolting a lockbox or similar device to the floor is quite different than having a "trap" hidden in a gas tank or a wheel well. In my opinion, most street cops will like the fact that you are a "responsible" gun owner who keeps his guns locked up according to the law.

AngelDecoys
11-17-2008, 8:41 PM
I have a wrangler as well. Here's three options. I have the first two installed on my YJ. Its my play vehicle.
1) You can get a sheet metal trunk that will fit behind the rear seat. It just bolts into the sides of the tub.
http://www.4wd.com/aux_incl/images.ashx?i=039VEHO.jpg&partNo=TFY&w=380
2) There is a box that can be installed where the jack is located under the hood. I have a lift so the jack doesn't work anyway. That steal box can be locked. Additionally, put a lock on the hood and you'll be set.
http://www.4wd.com/aux_incl/images.ashx?i=027-01.jpg&partNo=TFY&w=380
3)Lift the rear seat an install one of these boxes.
http://www.4wd.com/aux_incl/images.ashx?i=5tuffy.jpg&partNo=TFY&w=380

DiscoBayJoe
11-17-2008, 9:11 PM
Those are some great choices for the TJ. I've got the JK Unlimited. I picked up the Winchester eVault 400 yesterday. It hides really well underneath the rear seat in the center on the tunnel hump. It's black finish matches my carpet almost perfectly. This coming weekend i'm going to verify all clearances, pull the rear seat, and permanetly mount it to the tub. I think if I cut the carpet just right it will cover the visible angles. I can also use carpet from the OEM floor mats and put in the heavy-duty mudguard mats in their place. Not as discreet as I was originally thinking but should remove any potential state-based issues when traveling. If I some day create a stealthier lockable comparment, this could end up being a decoy honeypot protecting my precious stash of beef jerky.

p7m8jg
11-20-2008, 4:10 PM
Just for yucks, I did find Health & Safety Code 11366.8:


(a) Every person who possesses, uses, or controls a false compartment with the intent to store, conceal, smuggle, or transport a controlled substance within the false compartment shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for a term of imprisonment not to exceed one year or in the state prison.

(b) Every person who designs, constructs, builds, alters, or fabricates a false compartment for, or installs or attaches a false compartment to, a vehicle with the intent to store, conceal, smuggle, or transport a controlled substance shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months or two or three years.

(c) The term "vehicle" means any of the following vehicles without regard to whether the vehicles are private or commercial, including, but not limited to, cars, trucks, buses, aircraft, boats, ships, yachts, and vessels.

(d) The term "false compartment" means any box, container, space, or enclosure that is intended for use or designed for use to conceal, hide, or otherwise prevent discovery of any controlled substance within or attached to a vehicle, including, but not limited to, any of the following:

(1) False, altered, or modified fuel tanks.
(2) Original factory equipment of a vehicle that is modified, altered, or changed.
(3) Compartment, space, or box that is added to, or fabricated, made, or created from, existing compartments, spaces, or boxes within a vehicle.

Again, it all has to do with intent to conceal drugs, not firearms. FYI