BRENTWOOD - A Massachusetts man accused of driving into oncoming traffic near Route 28 in Salem and setting off a police pursuit is urging a judge to throw out his case, claiming he violated no motor vehicle laws because he was on a moped - not a motorcycle.
Rafael Tejada, 27, of Lawrence, Mass. is facing two felony reckless conduct charges and eight misdemeanors for allegedly fleeing from a police officer who attempted to pull him over for not wearing protective eyewear.
The reason for the July 30 stop was not legally justified, according to Tejada's public defender, Devens Hamlen, who is arguing all evidence in the case should be thrown out of court.
"A moped is not a motorcycle," Hamlen said in court papers. "There is nothing in the driving code requiring that moped drivers wear eye glasses, safety goggles or that the moped have some sort of protective screen."
Prosecutors submitted an online advertisement of the motorized bike to a Rockingham County Superior Court judge to support their argument that Tejada was, in fact, driving a motorcycle, giving Salem police a right to pull him over.
"The motorcycle (Tejada) was operating has an internal combustion engine with a piston displacement exceeding 50 cc's," Assistant County Attorney Jerome Blanchard said in a court motion.
If a judge agrees with Tejada, it would not only throw out nearly all evidence in the case, but essentially bar prosecutors from pursuing charges against him related to the pursuit, according to the defense.
Blanchard argues that a 2008 state Supreme Court case would still allow the state to pursue charges against Tejada for his actions during the police pursuit.
Tejada was headed eastbound on Cluff Crossing Road at 11:36 a.m. when he was first spotted by Officer Brian Routhier.
When the officer activated his cruiser lights and siren, Tejada allegedly sped off and crossed over a double yellow line into oncoming traffic, according to police. He entered the Shaw's Plaza through the exit lane, police said.
Police officers dispatched to the scene caught up to Tejada's moped in the parking lot and ordered him to stop. He allegedly jumped a curb to get out of the parking lot and drove on a nearby railroad bed.
Police lost sight of Tejada but a short time later other cruisers in the area spotted him southbound on Route 28. Officers followed him onto Cluff Crossing Road and into the Brook Village West Apartments, where police say he went off the paved parking lot and darted in front of a cruiser.
One officer had to slam on his brakes to avoid hitting Tejada. A second cruiser following the officer rear-ended the lead police car, prosecutors said.
Tejada then drove into some brush and crashed at low speed before being apprehended, police said.
A judge is set to hear legal arguments in the case on Feb. 22. email@example.com