A prohibition upon the use of property for purposes that are declared, by valid legislation, to be injurious to the health, morals, or safety of the community, cannot be deemed a taking or an appropriation of property for the public benefit. Such legislation does not disturb the owner in the control or use of his property for lawful purposes, nor restrict his right to dispose of it, but is only a declaration by the state that its use by any one, for certain forbidden purposes, is prejudicial to the public interests. Nor can legislation of that character come within the U.S. amend. XIV, in any case, unless it is apparent that its real object is not to protect the community, or to promote the general well-being, but, under the guise of police regulation, to deprive the owner of his liberty and property, without due process of law.
In one case, defendant was found guilty of selling and manufacturing intoxicating liquors without having the license or permit required by the prohibition statute. Defendant, having been found guilty, was fined and ordered to be committed to jail until the fine was paid. Each judgment was affirmed. Defendant appealed, contending that he was denied rights, privileges, and immunities guaranteed by the United States Constitution. The Court affirmed, holding the prohibition statute was a valid exercise of police power to control the evils associated with drinking. In another case, the State appealed the dismissal of a nuisance action against the owner of a building who had violated the prohibition statute. The Court reversed that decision, holding that a state could claim a building that constituted a brewery was a nuisance and did not have to compensate the owner because there was no taking when the owner could use the building for lawful purposes.
Was the prohibition statute a valid exercise of police power?
It is true, that, when the defendants in these cases purchased or erected their breweries, the laws of the State did not forbid the manufacture of intoxicating liquors. But the State did not thereby give any assurance, or come under an obligation, that its legislation upon that subject would remain unchanged. Indeed, as was said in Stone v. Mississippi, above cited, the supervision of the public health and the public morals is a governmental power, "continuing in its nature," and "to be dealt with as the special exigencies of the moment may require;" and that, "for this purpose, the largest legislative discretion is allowed, and the discretion cannot be parted with any more than the power itself." So in Beer Company v. Massachusetts, 97 U.S. 32: "If the public safety or the public morals require the discontinuance of any manufacture or traffic, the hand of the legislature cannot be stayed from providing for its discontinuance by any incidental inconvenience which individuals or corporations may suffer."