Mountain Law: Keeping victims’ addresses confidential
A person attempting to escape from actual or threatened domestic violence, a sexual offense, or stalking frequently moves to a new address to avoid an assailant or potential assailant. This new address, however, is only useful if an assailant or potential assailant does not discover it. To address this concern, the Colorado General Assembly recently established an address confidentiality program under which a victim or potential victim (I’ll just say “victim” for the remainder of this article) can obtain a substitute address. Mail sent to this address by first class, certified or registered mail is received by the state, which then forwards the mail without charge to the victim at the victim’s actual address. The state also receives other classes and kinds of mail for the victim, but the victim must pay for this service.
A victim wishing to apply for the address confidentiality program must work with, and obtain the recommendation of, an “application assistant” designated by the state. The victim must complete an application signed under oath indicating, among other things, that he or she is a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense, or stalking and fears for his or her safety … and that the victim has confidentially relocated in the past 90 days or plans to confidentially relocate in Colorado. It appears that a victim relocating to another state or who relocated within Colorado more than 90 days prior to the application cannot be admitted to the program.
The application must include evidence showing that the applicant is a victim of domestic violence, sexual offense, or stalking. This evidence may include documentation from government files, records from a battered women’s shelter or safehouse, documentation from a sexual assault program, or documentation from a religious, medical, or other professional who worked with the victim.
A person other than the victim who needs to be a participant in the program to ensure the safety of the victim can also be admitted into the program, but that person must consent to participation if he or she is 18 years of age or older.
A victim admitted into the program is issued an authorization card that includes the substitute address. The card generally remains valid for four years and can be renewed. The victim can ask any state or government agency to cross-out or change the actual address listed in any public record created within 90 days prior to the victim’s application for the program and replace it with the substitute address. The law does not apply to records created more than 90 days prior to the application.
A victim’s substitute address may be used for most purposes, but there are significant exceptions. The victim’s actual address must be used on documents relating to real estate that are recorded in the county clerk and recorder’s office; the victim’s driver’s license; motor vehicle records; and property tax records. It is possible for a victim to avoid using his or her name and actual address in real estate records and property tax records by taking title in the name of a legal entity with its own address and registered agent. The motor vehicle department is restricted from disclosing motor vehicle records showing a victim’s actual address.
A victim’s participation in the program may extend by five days the time for the victim to respond to documents that are legally served by mail (although it is unclear how the person sending the document is supposed to know the victim is a participant in the program).
More information about the address confidentiality program, including how to apply, is available at http://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/ACP/ACPHome.html. In Summit County, Advocates for Victims of Assault, Inc. has approved application assistants. Contact Yesenia Becerril at 970-668-3906 or Yesenia@summitadvocates.org.
Noah Klug is principal of The Klug Law Firm, LLC, a general law practice in Summit County emphasizing real estate, litigation and business law. He may be reached at (970)468-4953 or Noah@TheKlugLawFirm.com.
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