Michigan State House approves bills that gives more confidentiality to abuse survivors

The state House approved a series of bills Tuesday that would provide a greater level of confidentiality for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Under the proposals, victims of crimes and their children would be given an identification number and a substitute address for the state to mail items such as driver’s licenses and other state documents.

The program would put Michigan on par with 37 other states that provide some form of address confidentiality for crime victims, bill sponsor Sen. Ruth Johnson, a Holly Republican, said in a media release.

“For many survivors of these heinous crimes, escaping from their abusers could mean the difference between life and death,” said Johnson. “This bipartisan package is about saving lives and giving survivors some peace of mind by reducing the risk that they will be threatened or harmed again."

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Under the program, the Michigan secretary of state would reissue any official state ID cards, including driver's licenses with a designated state address so participants' residential addresses are protected. The state Department of Technology, Management and Budget would use a post office box to forward state documents to participants' actual address, which would be kept confidential.

Schools would be barred from disclosing the addresses of students and parents or guardians of students if they are in the program. The program would also protect a participant’s address from Freedom of Information Act requests.

The bills also seek to ensure victims that crimes can vote. Michigan voter registration records are open to the public, which includes addresses of voters. Participants would be able to use their program ID in the state’s Qualified Voter File in order to protect their location from being accessed by their perpetrator.

Bill supporters say as many as 5,000 Michigan residents might end up participating in the program. The program requires an application that would be sent to the state attorney general's office where applicants would write a statement of the risk posed by disclosure of their address. No criminal conviction is required to prove a threat.

The bills are heading back to the Senate, which previously passed the bills, to review changes made by the House. If the Senate approves the changes, the bills will be sent to the governor for approval.