‘Run-Done’ law invoked

Published 11:17 am Monday, December 12, 2011

EURE – Normally it’s rewarding to be judged number one, but not in the case of a Gates County man.

Michael John Schoenewolf, 26, of Corapeake was the first motorist in northeastern North Carolina, and the second statewide, to be arrested and charged with a new state law that may cause him to lose his vehicle.

Thanks to North Carolina’s “Run and You’re Done” law, which took effect Dec. 1, Schoenewolf’s vehicle has been turned over to the Gates County Sheriff’s Office after he was arrested Dec. 3 for allegedly speeding to elude arrest.

The newly enacted law gives law enforcement officers the authority to impound a person’s vehicle if a driver attempts to flee. Upon the driver’s arrest, the vehicle becomes the property of the state while the case goes through the normal legal channels. If the court system finds the driver guilty as charged, the impounded vehicle can possibly be sold with the proceeds benefitting public education.

North Carolina State Highway Patrol Trooper K.R. Velazquez-Genao was part of a driver’s license checkpoint on US 13 near Barfield Road in Gates County on Dec. 3. At approximately 11:20 p.m., she said a vehicle, traveling north, approached the checkpoint.

“That vehicle, a gold Ford Taurus, suddenly performed a u-turn in the roadway, nearly causing a collision with another vehicle,” Velazquez-Genao said. “At that point the vehicle, after completing its u-turn, headed south on US 13 at a high rate of speed.”

Velazquez-Genao said she activated the blue light and siren in her NCHP vehicle and proceeded to follow the Taurus.

“The suspect vehicle was passing cars on a double yellow line and traveling at a speed of 100 miles per hour,” she stated. “Just as we were approaching the Winton bridge the suspect vehicle pulled off the road at which time I performed a traffic stop.”

There, Schoenewolf was arrested for DWI, careless and reckless driving, failure to register a vehicle, driving while license were revoked, no inspection, no insurance, displaying a fictitious license plate, open container of alcohol of spirituous liquor, open container after drinking and simple possession of marijuana.

He was placed in the Chowan County Jail under a $21,000 secured bond and has made his initial court appearance. His probable cause hearing is scheduled for Dec. 19.

A 16-year-old passenger in Schoenewolf’s vehicle was not charged.

According to public records, Schoenewolf has previous DWI convictions in North Carolina and Virginia.

The new “Run and You’re Done” law amends GS 20-141.5 (felony speed to elude arrest). It requires at least three aggravating factors to be present – which in case against Schoenewolf were DWI, driving while license were revoked, careless and reckless driving and driving at a speed that was 15 mph over the posted limit.

According to Velazquez-Genao, a law enforcement officer shall seize a motor vehicle when a driver is arrested for felony speed to elude arrest. That vehicle becomes the constructive possession of the sheriff of the county where the arrest was made. That sheriff can release the vehicle if the owner posts a bond that is double the cost of the vehicle, but the owner must return the vehicle to the sheriff on the day of his/her trial.

The vehicle can be returned to the lien holder who is allowed to sell it if the lien holder agrees to turn over the proceeds of that sale to the court system.

If the defendant is convicted of felony speed to elude arrest and vehicle is not released back to owner, it’s sold at public auction with proceeds to the school system.

Schoenewolf’s arrest under the “Run and You’re Done” legislation is a first for the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, thus making Velazquez-Genao the first Trooper in the state to do so.

An arrest made Dec. 2 by the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office was the first one statewide involving this new law.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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