Michigan Senate OKs address confidentiality for victims

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Mich. (AP) — Michigan would create an address confidentiality program to protect victims of domestic violence, stalking and human trafficking under bipartisan legislation that won unanimous approval from the state Senate on Tuesday.

Participants would receive a unique identification number and an address at which a state department would receive their mail, which would be forwarded to them. Their physical address would be shielded from public-record requests.

Starting in February 2021, the secretary of state would have to issue a corrected driver’s license or state ID card to a participant after receiving notice from the state attorney general. State police could access a database with an enrollee’s confidential information and share it with law enforcement only under “exigent circumstances.”

The seven measures, which were sent to the House for consideration, would “help reduce the risk of individuals being threatened or harmed again by their abusers and give them some peace of mind,” said Sen. Ruth Johnson, a Holly Republican and sponsor of two bills.

People could join the program if they were victims of domestic violence, stalking, human trafficking or sexual assault, or if the disclosure of their address would put them at risk of being threatened or physically harmed by another person.

Thirty-seven states have address confidentiality programs, according to the Michigan Department of State. The number of participants ranges between 100 and 4,200 depending on the state.

Similar legislation cleared the Senate in 2018 but died in the House. Victims have said they feel unsafe in Michigan without a confidentiality program.

The nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency estimates it would cost $300,000 to create applications, participation cards, a training program, and the database. The cost for labor and mailing could be $13,200 per year for each group of 300 participants. The cost to issue new driver’s licenses would be minimal.

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