The Sept. 8, 1930, edition of The Jamestown Sun called it a “dragnet" in its headline when the local police department and the Stutsman County Sheriff’s Office combined to bring in 16 lawbreakers over a single weekend.
Alcohol violations were the main crime and sent the majority of those swept up in the dragnet to the judge.
Five of the arrests were for violations of the Volstead Act. This was the name of the law that enforced the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and banned the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. They were bound over for trial in Stutsman County Court on $500 bond.
The Volstead Act had been given some extra teeth in 1929 when the maximum penalty for violations was increased to a $10,000 fine and five years in prison for repeat offenders.
Americans likely found the Volstead Act a little confusing. It was still legal to drink in your own home and even offer some to a guest.
You just couldn’t buy, sell or manufacture any alcohol.
Medicinal alcohol from a licensed pharmacy with a valid prescription from a doctor was legal but listed to one pint every 10 days. Pharmacies also had the monopoly on over-the-counter medications back then
Also in September of 1931, Pete Zappas, owner of the Palace of Sweets candy store, was charged with illegally selling aspirin outside a pharmacy in violation of state law.
It would seem that eight of the criminals picked up in the dragnet had violated at least the spirit of the Volstead Act.
They were all charged with drunk and disorderly.
All pleaded guilty and were hit with fines and costs ranging from $10.75 to $12.75 and released.
Adjusted for inflation, a $12 fine in 1930 would amount to about $180 today.
The men charged with the Volstead Act violations and drunk and disorderly were all local and all paid their bonds or fines and were released.
There were also three men who were transients and likely just passing through Jamestown. Two were charged with riding on a passenger train without a ticket. That got you 20 days in the Stutsman County jail.
The final transient was charged with intoxication in public. Although the newspaper articles don’t note his financial situation, it was likely he was broke.
That man was “sent out of the city” by the judge as punishment for his crime.
The Volstead Act was repealed in 1932 although being drunk and disorderly and riding a passenger train without a ticket are still crimes.
But I don’t think they can banish you from town for being drunk and broke in public.
Author Keith Norman can be reached at www.KeithNormanBooks.com