General Assembly passes Rep. Amore and Sen. Euer’s legislation that protects victims of domestic abuse
STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Gregg Amore and Sen. Dawn Euer which will help protect victims of domestic violence by keeping their addresses confidential.
“The effects of domestic violence impacts every aspect of a victim’s life and tears at the very fabric of our communities. And sadly, even though a victim may physically escape their abuser, it does not always mean that the abuse will end for themselves or their children. This bill will keep victims of domestic violence and their families safe from their abusers while also allowing them to build back and live their lives as normally and safely as possible. Everyone should feel safe and secure in their homes and this bill will provide victims of domestic abuse another layer of protection from their abusers. I also have to thank the many victims of domestic violence who bravely told their stories while advocating for passage of the bill. It is my hope that this bill can give them, and others like them, the security and safety for themselves and their families that they deserve,” said Representative Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence).
“Far too often, survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, or other abuse face continued harassment and intimidation from their abuser. This prevents survivors from healing and puts their safety at continued risk. The Address Confidentiality Program will create a pathway for survivors and their families to safely participate in the many public aspects of life, which is something everyone deserves. I want to thank the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence for its assistance and advocacy, and the Secretary of State’s office for its collaboration,” said Senator Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown).
The legislation (2022-H 8015A, 2022-S 2659A) would establish the Address Confidentiality Program which would enable a victim of domestic violence to apply to the Secretary of State to have an address designated by the Secretary to serve as the person’s substitute address. If the application is accepted, the Secretary shall immediately forward all such process or mail to the appropriate program participants at the address specified by the participant for that purpose.
In order to qualify for the program, applicants must attest under the penalty of perjury that they are a victim of domestic violence and that the applicant or applicant’s children are in fear of their safety. A parent, or legal guardian, acting on behalf of a minor or an incapacitated person may also submit an application if the parent or legal guardian states under oath that the parent or legal guardian has legal authority to act on the minor’s or incapacitated person’s behalf.
Applicants would be certified for five years following the date of filing, at which time the applicant may apply for renewal.
Once certified, the program participant may use the address designated by the Secretary as their home and work address.
Service of process on a program participant, a program participant’s minor child, incapacitated person or other adult member of the program participant’s household would be complete when the Secretary receives such process by mail or otherwise.
A program participant may request that state and local agencies use the substitute address. When creating, modifying or maintaining a public record, state and local agencies shall accept the substitute address when the program participant provides documentation of certification in the program.
According to the legislation, no person shall be compelled to disclose a program participant’s actual address during the discovery phase of or during a proceeding before a court of competent jurisdiction or administrative tribunal unless the court or administrative tribunal finds, based upon a preponderance of the evidence, that the disclosure is required in the interests of justice.
No person shall knowingly and intentionally obtain or disclose a program participant’s actual address knowing that they were not authorized to do so and violators would be assessed a civil penalty of not more than $5,000.
The bill also calls for the Secretary of State to designate state, local and nonprofit agencies that provide counseling and shelter services to victims of domestic violence to assist persons applying to the program.
Finally, a participant in the address confidentiality program who is qualified to vote may apply for a mail ballot for all elections in the city or town in which that individual resides in the same manner as other mail ballot voters. The program participant may use their substitute address on the mail ballot application and the local board of canvassers shall transmit the ballot to the program participant at the address designated in the application. No election official shall release a program participant’s actual address. Neither the name nor the address of a program participant shall be included in any list of registered voters available to the public.
The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for consideration.