By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
A Rock Springs veterinarian who has been battling one of Wyoming’s brand inspection laws as unconstitutional plans to appeal his recent conviction on charges he failed to have brand inspections for horses he was moving between counties.
Dr. Rex Rammell told Cowboy State Daily he will appeal his convictions to hopefully force a change in the law he maintains violates constitutional guarantees against unreasonable search and seizure.
“If I don’t run out of wind before it’s over, I will prevail and the law will be ruled unconstitutional and the Legislature will be forced to take up the whole issue and modernize the law,” said the gubernatorial candidate.
The move will be the latest in a case that has gone on for almost two years because of delays caused by coronavirus and competing court orders.
Rammell’s conviction in circuit court in Pinedale last week came almost two years after a Sublette County Sheriff’s deputy pulled him over in June 2019 while he was moving horses from Rock Springs to Sublette County.
The deputy cited him for failing to have brand inspections for the horses in his trailer.
State law gives law enforcement officers the authority to “stop any vehicle carrying livestock, poultry or carcasses” so they can check for documents proving ownership of the livestock.
However, Rammell, who has served as his own attorney throughout the case, argued the law is unconstitutional because it does not require that there be a reasonable cause for law enforcement officers to stop a vehicle. The vehicle only needs to be hauling livestock.
“The irony of the whole thing is when you are in the courthouse, you are innocent until proven guilty,” he said. “But the second you step out of the courthouse and put a horse in a trailer you are guilty until proven innocent.”
Rammell has argued throughout the trial that because his traffic stop was unconstitutional, the evidence collected against him during the stop — the lack of brand inspections — should be suppressed.
A Sublette County magistrate ruled in Rammell’s favor early on in the proceedings, but the county attorney appealed the decision and it was overturned — not because the decision was faulty, but because the magistrate was found to have been improperly appointed to his position. As a result, his ruling had no impact on the case.
Throughout the case, Rammell has not argued about the requirements for brand inspections, which prove ownership of livestock, but of the law giving law enforcement officers the right to stop vehicles without reasonable cause.
“I believe in brand inspections,” he said. “When people cross state lines, when there is a change of ownership, at sale barns, I am 100% behind brand inspections. But all of these unnecessary rules are burdensome, they’re unconstitutional and should be removed.”
The jury in Rammell’s trial convicted him on four counts of failing to have the proper brand inspections and the judge sentenced him to 30 days in jail and suspended the sentence. He was ordered to serve two years of unsupervised probation and pay fines and fees of $1,255.
Rammell said he will appeal the conviction to state district court, where he will be able to raise the issue of the constitutionality of the state brand inspection laws.
Rammell said he intends to follow the case through as far as he can.
“I’ve always been a principled man,” he said. “I’ve paid for I don’t know how many brand inspections that haven’t been necessary. I was just moving horses to pasture.”