The People’s Lawyer

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem

The Attorney General, one of twelve statewide elected officials in North Dakota, provides legal services and opinions to state officials, legislators, county state’s attorneys and city attorneys. The office also enforces the Open Meetings and Open Records laws, and issues opinions in response to complaints alleging violations of those laws.

In addition to serving as the “state’s lawyer,” the Attorney General has several other duties, including:

The Bureau of Criminal Investigation assists local governments in criminal and drug enforcement investigations, maintains the criminal history and sex offender registration systems and the state’s Sex Offender website (, runs the Internet Crimes Against Children task force, issues concealed weapons licenses, and compiles statewide crime statistics.

The Consumer Protection and Antitrust Division enforces consumer fraud and Do Not Call laws, investigates and prosecutes consumer fraud cases, and enforces the state’s anti-trust statutes.

The Fire Marshal conducts fire inspections of schools and state-owned properties, and investigates fires to determine origin and cause.

The Gaming division regulates charitable gaming and ensures compliance with tribal-state casino gaming compacts. The Licensing section regulates and issues certain wholesale, retail, and distributor licenses.

The Crime Laboratory analyzes samples from drug and alcohol related criminal cases, and evidence from crime scenes.

The Attorney General is also charged with ensuring public safety. From providing online up-to-date information about registered sex offenders to pursuing unlicensed out-of-state contractors working here, and from arresting drug dealers to providing tips to avoiding scams, my staff and I take this responsibility very seriously.

The rate of drunk driving has been a concern of mine, and other state officials, for several years. Drunk drivers pose a huge risk to public safety. In 2007, with the cooperation of judges across the state, I established a program to address the problem of repeat drunk drivers. The 24/7 Sobriety Program affects individuals who are arrested for a second or subsequent DUI. Participants are required to report for breath testing, at their expense, twice a day. If the individual’s test registers any alcohol use, he or she is immediately taken into custody. The program has a 98% success rate – in other words, while participating in the program, participants don’t drink, and they don’t drink and drive.

Prescription Drug abuse is increasingly prevalent, so in December, 2009, I launched the Prescription Drug Take Back program which provides a safe and convenient way for residents to dispose of unwanted or unused medications. The program accepts all  medications – including those most likely to be abused, such as Vicodin, Hydrocodone, and Valium. The Take Back receptacles are located in the lobby of local law enforcement agencies. It is the only ongoing, permanent, statewide program in the nation. To date, over one ton of medications have been disposed of, and hundreds of thousands of pills have been kept off the street.

Earlier this year, a Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s cybercrime agent received national honors for his role in the breakup of an international child pornography ring. The six-month investigation began with a 2009 child molestation case in Australia and resulted in the rescue of eight  children in the US and Canada and the arrest of seven individuals in the United States, including one man in Minot, ND.

The Attorney General is a member of numerous boards and commissions, including the Pardon Advisory Board, the Board of University and School Lands, and the Industrial Commission (which manages and oversees all state-owned industries including the Bank of North Dakota with its $6 billion in assets and the state Mill & Elevator, which processes over 80,000 bushels of wheat daily).

The Industrial Commission also regulates oil and gas production (through the Oil & Gas Division), encourages development of pipeline facilities and promotes construction of transmission lines. It regulates the development of our natural resources to prevent waste and protect the rights of mineral owners – including those owned by the state.

The saying “variety is the spice of life,” captures the role of Attorney General perfectly. The wide-ranging duties of this agency’s various divisions make every day unique, and sometimes challenging. It has been my honor to serve the people of North Dakota as their Attorney General since 2001, and my very great privilege to have spent these years working with the talented and dedicated employees in my office.

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