Virginia State Bar

An agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia

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Military Law

A Section of the Virginia State Bar.

Military Law Newsletter - Spring 2010

Military Law News

In this issue:

Editor, Christopher M. Dunne, Esq.


Message from the Chair

Neal Puckett, LtCol, USMC (Ret) 

Neal Puckett, LtCol, USMC (Ret)

The Virginia State Bar Military Law Section continued to flourish this year in support of our members and the military bar in general.  Our annual Military Law CLE held on 14 May 2010 at Marine Corps Base Quantico was highly praised by attendees.  But rather than list the activities of individual members of our board, I’d like to highlight a singular achievement of only one.

Mr. Steven Chucala, LtCol, USA (Ret), first brought to our attention in the Fall of 2006 that the Commonwealth of Virginia was not complying with the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act of 2003, as it pertained to personal property tax exemptions.  Specifically, active duty military members in Virginia who were not legal residents, and who also had jointly registered/titled motor vehicles with spouses who were also not legal residents of Virginia, were being denied tax exemption status simply because they registered jointly.  The Board members agreed it was a valid issue and that tax relief was appropriate.

As our board was prevented from lobbying or litigating the matter, Mr. Chucala took it upon himself to seek an Attorney General’s Opinion.   Under Virginia law, only a few persons may request such a legal opinion.   Mr. Chucala sought the assistance of Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter.  On April 21, 2008, Mr. Lingamfelter requested the then Attorney General, Robert F. McDonnell for a legal opinion.   Mr. Chucala also wrote to the attorney general on April 26, 2008, and provided him with additional legal authority in support of the tax exemption.

In a letter dated June 16, 2008, the Deputy Attorney General responded declaring that the tax exemption we sought was not available and could only be achieved by amending the Virginia Constitution.  On 12 September 2008, Mr. Chucala composed a rebuttal letter to the Deputy Attorney General citing additional legal authority and requested reconsideration.  Months passed. 

Finally, in a letter dated November 16, 2009, the new Attorney General of Virginia, the Honorable William C. Mims, issued his written opinion declaring a service member who is not a domiciliary of Virginia is not subject to personal property tax on vehicles primarily located in the Commonwealth, even if title is jointly held with a non-military dependent.  This exemption does not apply if the dependent is a Virginia domiciliary. 

The precedent setting Attorney General’s Opinion, particularly when considered in conjunction with the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act (discussed in another article herein) constitutes significant tax relief for military families.

This was a monumental achievement and exemplified the commitment to serve those who defend America for which Mr. Chucala is legendary in the U.S. Army.  His numerous publications and tireless efforts to improve the lives of our military service members set an example the rest of us on the board strive to follow.  We are all in his debt.


Statements or expressions of opinion or comments appearing herein are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the State Bar, Section or the editor.