The Utah Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of an amateur researcher who studies snakes and was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of importing the snakes without a certificate of veterinary inspection and entry permit.

The state Division of Wildlife Resources served a search warrant on Davis County resident Ryan William Hoyer in 2004 and found 65 of the reptiles commonly referred to as rubber boa snakes on the premises. They were part of the research he did with his father, Richard, who is a biologist and an expert on these particular reptiles.

Most of the snakes died while in the state's care during the litigation that followed.

Hoyer originally was charged with a misdemeanor — illegally possessing protected wildlife — in Layton Justice Court. That case was dismissed, but then a new case was filed in Clearfield Justice Court.

Hoyer objected, stating that the law under which he was charged was too vague. He was convicted in 2006 for possessing 38 rubber boa snakes brought into Utah without a certificate of veterinary inspection or entry permit. He was acquitted of other charges.

Hoyer appealed the justice court conviction to the state district court, and after a conviction there, appealed to the Utah Court of Appeals.

He argued that the law was unconstitutional because its language was so vague and confusing that it should make his conviction void.

However, the appeals court on Thursday said in a six-page written ruling that an ordinary person reading the law would understand that they need to get a veterinary inspection and entry permit for these animals.

"We ascertain no vagueness in the statute or rule as they have been applied to Hoyer's conduct," the court said.


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