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Prohibition test case was from Jamestown

A 1932 test case from Jamestown determined if prohibition had really ended in North Dakota.

JSSP Keith Norman Column Sig

Prohibition ended in 1933 but not with a little confusion and a court case.

As it would turn out, one of the test court cases played out right here in Jamestown.

In the spring of 1933, an arrest was made for an alcohol violation in Jamestown.

This was no ordinary arrest. H.L. Briggs, the Jamestown chief of police, arrested a 50-year-old carpenter by the name of Chris Aipperspach. Aipperspach was accused of possessing two pints of “alleged” beer and accused of trafficking in alcohol.

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It was a minor arrest to involve the chief of police which became more interesting when Aipperspach was held in the Stutsman County Jail in lieu of $1,500 bond.

I think all of this was arranged to create a test case for North Dakota’s prohibition laws.

The section of the North Dakota Constitution that had authorized prohibition in the state had been repealed by a vote of the people in November 1932. However, the state laws that provided for the enforcement of prohibition had not been changed.

M.C. Fredericks, a local Jamestown attorney, was representing Aipperspach in this situation. Fredericks filed a writ of habeas corpus asking for a court order for Aipperspach to be released from jail immediately.

In fact, Fredericks had already arranged a hearing on the writ before the North Dakota Supreme Court.

During the hearing, Fredericks argued that if the constitutional mandate for prohibition had been terminated the state laws regarding prohibition must also have been voided.

The North Dakota Supreme Court didn’t agree.

While the Supreme Court recognized the laws of prohibition in North Dakota may have been created because of the state constitution’s prohibition clause, they were independent and enforceable even if the constitution had been changed.

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In other words, alcohol was still against the law in North Dakota.

It took another initiated measure, this one on Sept. 22, 1933, to allow the manufacture and sale of beer in North Dakota. The measure passed by a more than 2-to-1 margin.

North Dakota took two public votes over nearly a year to legalize weak beer. None of this changed the promotion against had liquor.

Hopefully, Aipperspach was released from jail while the changes in law were approved.

For more history-related columns, click here.

Related Topics: HISTORY
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