Prohibition in Florida Caused Major Problems

Dade County (Miami) voted itself dry in 1913. That was years before National Prohibition in 1920. Prohibition in Florida came early. Residents hoped that outlawing alcohol would reduce crime. That it would improve health. And it would protect women and young people.

But many residents and visitors objected to being unable to buy alcohol. It outlawed what they saw as their right buy alcohol. South Florida’s closeness to the Caribbean made it a natural place for bootlegging. Miami Beach openly flaunted the law.

Prohibition in Florida has a long history


Illegal operators bribed police and others. This was easy to do. In Fort Lauderdale, the sheriff, the assistant chief of police, and seventeen others were arrested for conspiracy. The others included police officers and deputy sheriffs. Farther up the coast is South Jacksonville. Almost the entire city administration was corrupt. This included the mayor, chief of police, president of the city council, city commissioner, and fire chief. A federal grand jury indicted all of them.

Prohibition in Florida
Prohibition in Florida caused major problems.

Law enforcers who were not corrupt often violated law themselves. It was to enforce Prohibition. In 1923, a U.S. Coast Guard boat was off South Florida. It had orders to capture a rumrunner, in  international waters, if necessary. It opened fire on the rumrunner beyond the three-mile limit. So they illegally captured him there in violation of international law.

There was widespread corruption as well as illegal and often violent enforcement activities. This led to a lack of respect for Prohibition. It became fashionable for women to drink. It also created a harmful pattern of drinking. That was drinking less often but much more heavily. Speakeasies contributed to this problem.

Moonshiners hastily and made their product. They often used car radiators to make moonshine. They were soldered with lead. This led to lead poisoning. As a result, some customers were paralyzed, blinded, or died.


As time passed, the problems caused by Prohibition in Florida increased. Residents saw that it didn’t reduce crime. It created it. Didn’t improve health. It endangered it. And didn’t protect women and young people. It endangered them. In short, they realized that Prohibition was counter productive.

They voted over 80% for Repeal. They wanted an end to the disaster of National Prohibition.



    • Alduino, F. The “Noble Experiment” in Tampa. Tallahassee: FL State U.
    • Godsoe, W. Rum Running on the Florida Coast. Chicago: Adventure, 1930.
    • Guthrie, J. . The Judicial Response to Prohibition Enforcement in Florida, 1885-1935. Westport, CT: Greenwood.
    • Ling, S. Run the Rum in South Florida during Prohibition. Charleston, SC: Hist Press.
    • Willis, L. Southern Prohibition. Athens: U GA Press. A history of Prohibition in Florida (Central FL).