BISMARCK -- North Dakota Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger will plead guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol after being arrested late last month in Mandan, he said Friday, Oct. 20.
Rauschenberger, 34, was charged with “driving under the influence of intoxicating liquors,” a Class B misdemeanor, after he was arrested by a Highway Patrol officer just after 10:30 p.m. Sept. 30, a Saturday. He’ll make an initial appearance Oct. 31, according to court records.
Rauschenberger’s blood alcohol content was .206 percent, more than twice the legal limit, according to the results of a breath test included in a report he provided. He said there was no one else in the car with him when he was driving on Highway 810, known as the expressway connecting Bismarck and Mandan.
“I had actually unfortunately made two poor decisions: One was to drink, and the second, of course, was the fact that I drove,” Rauschenberger said.
North Dakota court records don’t show Rauschenberger had any previous violations besides a 2015 speeding infraction. A Highway Patrol spokesman declined to comment on an open case, and an official with the Morton County State’s Attorney’s Office didn’t return a message.
For a first offense, state law mandates a minimum $500 fine and an “addiction evaluation by an appropriate licensed addiction treatment program.” Rauschenberger’s BAC level would make it an aggravated offense, however, which carries a minimum $750 fine and at least two days’ imprisonment.
Rauschenberger, a Republican who’s up for reelection next year, disclosed the arrest in an emailed statement Friday afternoon. In 2014, he took a temporary unpaid leave of absence to seek professional help for alcohol problems, and he said Friday he had been doing well.
“I had not been in any direct treatment, and I feel like I had let that go as far as not going to as many meetings or not going to a regular counselor like I had been for a long time,” Rauschenberger said. “I essentially took a lot for granted.”
Rauschenberger apologized and said he’ll go back into treatment with a new counselor.
“I am grateful to my family and friends who have supported me as I have dealt with the challenges of my addiction,” he said in a statement.
Rauschenberger said he hasn’t missed work and doesn’t plan on taking another leave of absence. Asked whether he’s considering resigning, he said he’s “extremely focused” on work.
“I’m just talking to friends and family about what’s the best thing for me personally,” Rauschenberger said. “I’m not making any knee-jerk reactions at this point as far as future professional decisions.”
Republican Gov. Doug Burgum was aware of the arrest, his spokesman Mike Nowatzki said. Rauschenberger has “taken full accountability and we fully support Ryan as he pursues his path to recovery,” Burgum said in a statement.
Rauschenberger’s father, Ron, worked as chief of staff under Govs. John Hoeven and Jack Dalrymple before working as Burgum’s senior adviser. He retired from state government earlier this year.
Ryan Rauschenberger was appointed the state’s tax commissioner by Dalrymple in January 2014 to finish Cory Fong’s term. He was elected to a four-year term with nearly 57 percent of the vote later that year.
Daniel Tick, a spokesman for the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party, said they’re glad nobody was hurt and hope Rauschenberger gets help to address his addiction. But he said it’s “worth a discussion about whether Commissioner Rauschenberger is able do his job for North Dakota,” and he questioned why news of the arrest didn’t become public until now.