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Official Opinions

 

December 2013 Opinions

Please click on Opinion number to view entire opinion.

Official opinions will be posted as they are issued, generally within 24 to 48 hours. Please check this page at regular intervals to determine whether additional opinions have been issued.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Official opinions represent the attorney general’s analysis of current law based on his thorough research of existing statutes, the Virginia and United States constitutions, and relevant court decisions.  They are not "rulings" and do not create new law, nor do they change existing law.  Creating and amending laws are the responsibility of the General Assembly, not the attorney general. 

Official opinions are legal advice, not personal opinions, and do not reflect the attorney general’s personal views about what the law should be.  Such advice is provided to ensure clients/the requester are in compliance with the law.  While the opinions may be given deference by the courts, they are not binding on the courts.

The official opinions issued by the attorney general are part of the duties of the office (see Code § 2.2-505). A person authorized by statute, such as the governor, a member of the General Assembly, a constitutional officer, or the head of a state agency, can ask the attorney general for an official opinion on the law. Members of the general public are not authorized to ask for opinions.

 

Opinion #

Requestor

Summary

The Honorable William M. Stanley
Member, Senate of Virginia

If a “lobbyist relationship” as defined by § 30-111 arises in the context of an election campaign, the separate disclosure requirement of § 30-111 for members and members-elect of the General Assembly applies irrespective of any disclosure the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act of 2006 may require of the campaign committee for the member or member-elect. Further, a “lobbyist relationship” is not established when a person who has registered as a lobbyist provides volunteer assistance to the election campaign of a member or member-elect if the nature of that assistance is not within the scope of the lobbyist’s usual occupation in legal, consulting or public relations services.

The Honorable Cathy C. Hogan
Clerk of the Circuit Court of Bedford County

An indigent criminal defendant convicted in a circuit court may be taxed for court-approved, reasonable expenses in addition to, and over and above the court-appointed counsel pre-waiver compensation limit set forth in § 19.2-163(2).  Further, §§ 17.1-275.5 and 19.2-163 must be read together to determine the amount of combined court-appointed counsel compensation and approved expenses that may be assessed against such a defendant.  Finally, the amount of expenses that may be assessed against such a defendant who is represented by an attorney from a public defender or capital defender office is not limited by the court-appointed counsel pre-waiver compensation limit set forth in § 19.2-163(2).

The Honorable Priscilla S. Bele
Commissioner of the Revenue
City of Newport News

The Honorable Robert S. Wertz, Jr.
Commissioner of the Revenue
Loudoun County

Larry W. Davis, Esquire
County Attorney for Albemarle County

The exemption from, or deferral of, real property taxes authorized in Article X, § 6(b) for persons not less than 65 years of age or disabled does not extend to a person who has placed title to the real property in any form of trust, but it does extend to a person who otherwise qualifies for the exemption and who holds a life estate in the real property.  Further, the exemption for disabled veterans provided in Article X, § 6-A does extend to a qualifying veteran who holds a life estate in the real property.

The Honorable J.E. "Chip" Harding
Sheriff, County of Albemarle

Pursuant to § 8.01-499, a sheriff has discretion to collect or not collect a commission from a sheriff’s sale.  Further, § 15.2-1615 directs what the sheriff must do with the money should he receive a commission.

Honorable Tim Hugo, Member, House of Delegates

An annual membership fee is not a “finance charge,” provided that such annual membership fee is assessed as a condition of access to the credit plan and regardless of whether a borrower actually receives an extension of credit from the lender.   Consequently, a lender who extends open-end credit pursuant to § 6.2-312 may charge borrowers an annual membership fee in connection with the provision of open-end credit, regardless of whether the borrower repays the balance in full by the close of a minimum 25-day billing cycle. 

Honorable P.W. Higgs, Sheriff, City of Fredericksburg

While judges and sheriffs should work together to resolve any issues or concerns about courthouse security, judges retain rule-making authority over courthouse security, and the sheriff is responsible for enforcing the rules and responding to any security threats or disturbances. 

Holly B. Smith, Commonwealth’s Attorney, Gloucester County

The Commonwealth is under no general obligation to disclose the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of her witnesses as part of the discovery process in a criminal case.  Nevertheless, pursuant to Brady v. Maryland, due process of law requires the Commonwealth to disclose the identity of those witnesses who have information that is favorable to the accused, when that evidence is material to the defendant’s guilt or punishment.  Finally, when a confidential informant in a narcotics case possesses exculpatory information under the Brady standard, or is an “active participant” in the criminal activity at issue at trial, the prosecution must disclose the informant’s identity to the defense within a reasonable time in advance of trial.