Victim confidentiality plan would shield addresses
Lansing — Victims of domestic violence or sexual assault could hide their street address in public records under legislation unanimously approved Tuesday in the Michigan Senate.
Supporters say the proposal would protect victims who could be at risk of repeated attacks if their abuser is able to access their address. The majority of states have similar laws.
Sponsoring Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, said she began working on the legislation after meeting Nicole Beverly, a Michigan domestic abuse survivor whose ex-husband allegedly threatened her life from prison as he neared release.
“I was able to see how many people who are survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking cannot feel safe when they try to start their life over,” O’Brien said. “So we want to offer a reasonable path that could help them stay in Michigan but start over and be able to stay safe.”
The proposal would require the Department of Attorney General to administer the new address confidentiality program, which would be open to victims of domestic violence, stalking, human trafficking or sexual assault. Parents could apply on behalf of minors.
The legislation defines “victim” as someone who suffers direct or threatened harm as the result of a crime but does not specify if proof of a conviction would be required to participate in the confidentiality program.
Applicants would need to provide a notarized statement affirming he or she is a qualifying victim or that disclosing a residential address “will increase the risk that he or she will be threatened or physically harmed by another person.”
Participants could ask to use a generic state address on all public records and identification cards, including his or her voter registration and driver license.
State departments, law enforcement agencies and local governments could request a victim’s real address or telephone number from the attorney general’s office if it was required for a legitimate governmental purpose.
At least 37 other states have similar victim confidentiality laws, said Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, who sponsored four measures in the seven-bill package.
“We’ve got to give these victims the power to hide, and we need a system,” Jones said.
The confidentiality program would cost the Department of Attorney General an estimated $400,000 per year, according to the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency. It would also likely increase costs for the Secretary of State’s Office and the Department of Technology Management and Budget.
Gov. Rick Snyder first proposed an address confidentiality program for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking or stalking in his 2015 special message on public safety.
The legislation now heads to the Michigan House.