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Crabbe Act

From Ohio History Central

In 1919, the Ohio legislature ratified the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This amendment enacted Prohibition, making the "manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors" illegal in the United States. Many Ohioans opposed Prohibition and filed a referendum, seeking to overturn the state legislature's action. The referendum succeeded by just 479 votes, showing how divided Ohioans were on the Prohibition issue. As a result of the referendum, Ohioans had reversed the legislature's action. In 1920, the United States Supreme Court rejected the referendum's outcome in Hawke v. Smith, ruling that the state legislature's original decision must stand because the legislators represented Ohioans. According to the Supreme Court, Ohio and its citizens had officially ratified the Eighteenth Amendment.

Following the adoption of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919, the Ohio government implemented stringent measures to enforce Prohibition within the state's borders. One such law was the Crabbe Act. When Ohio voters overturned the Ohio legislature's approval of the Eighteenth Amendment, they also rejected the Crabbe Act by approximately twenty-six thousand votes. In 1921, the Ohio legislature approved a new Crabbe Act. This version compensated mayors, justices of the peace, various judges, and other law enforcement officials with additional money beyond their normal pay whenever they arrested, convicted, and fined violators of the Eighteenth Amendment. Many legal officials sought to extend their jurisdiction into nearby cities to arrest and prosecute more violators and to enhance the judges' paychecks. Ohio voters approved the Crabbe Act by almost 300,000 votes.

The New Crabbe Act became the foundation for Tumey v. Ohio, a case before the United States Supreme Court, in 1927. In North College Hill, Ohio, a man was arrested for illegally possessing alcohol, a violation of the Eighteenth Amendment. This man contended that the law compensating officials with additional money for liquor cases violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution by depriving him of "due process of law." Attorneys for the accused man claimed that judges were more likely to convict accused people because convictions increased the judges' and other law enforcement officials' salaries. In March 1927, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff over the defendant, the State of Ohio, in essence bringing to an end the Crabbe Act.

See Also


  1. Behr, Edward. Prohibition: Thirteen Years that Changed America. New York, NY: Arcade Pub., 1996.  
  2. Clark, Norman. Deliver Us from Evil: An Interpretation of American Prohibition. New York, NY: Norton, 1976.  
  3. Kobler, John. Ardent Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. New York, NY: Putnam, 1973.