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Official Opinions

 

Domestic Violence:

Address Confidentiality Program- Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Address Confidentiality Program?

The Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) is a confidential mail-forwarding service for domestic violence victims who have recently relocated to a location unknown to their abuser. The goal of the ACP is to help domestic violence victims keep their new address confidential. 
                  
Program participants are authorized to use a “substitute” mailing address in lieu of their actual home address.  The ACP receives, sorts, repackages, and forwards all first class mail to each participant’s actual residential address.  The ACP does not forward magazines and catalogs.

The Office of the Attorney General serves as each program participant’s legal agent for receipt of mail and service of process.  The actual address of a program participant is available only to those employees involved in the operation of the Address Confidentiality Program and to law-enforcement officers for law-enforcement purposes. 

How can I participate in the Address Confidentiality Program?

Effective July 1, 2011, the ACP will be offered to victims statewide.  

Your participation in the ACP is not transferable if you move to another state.  Both adults and children can participate in this program.

Participation in the ACP is not permitted if the applicant is a sex offender for which registration is required pursuant to the Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry program as statutorily provided through Chapter 9, of Title 9.1 of the Code of Virginia, or if the applicant is currently on parole and/or probation.

If you are a resident of temporary housing for thirty (30) days or less you are not eligible to enroll in the ACP until you obtain a permanent residential address.

Can my children participate in the program?

If you have minor children who reside with you in your household, your minor children can be listed on your application for participation in the ACP as well.  Upon admission to the program, you will receive individual ACP authorization card(s) with individual authorization numbers for your children.  The substitute address can be used as the children’s address for purposes of receiving local and state services. 

How do I apply for participation in the Address Confidentiality Program?

To apply for participation in the ACP, you must complete an application through your local domestic violence program.  

Where can I locate contact information for my local domestic violence program?

To locate a local domestic violence program, contact the Virginia Family Violence/Sexual Assault Hotline (toll-free 24-hour) at 1-800-838-8238.  Hotline operators will direct you to the programs in your area that can assist you with safety planning and an ACP application. 

Can I apply if I am currently living in a shelter?

If you are a resident of temporary housing for thirty (30) days or less, you are not eligible to enroll in the ACP until you obtain a permanent residential address.  If you have obtained a permanent address and are residing in temporary housing pending your move, you can submit your application to the ACP with your permanent address information. 

Will I be protected from my abuser?

The ACP is not retroactive and does not provide absolute protection. You should seek counseling through a local domestic violence program or crisis center to determine whether applying for ACP participation is an appropriate step in your overall safety plan.  

What is the substitute address?

The substitute address is a P.O. Box address issued by the ACP and has no relation to your actual location.  All ACP participants are authorized to use this same post office box.  However, the ACP assigns each participant a unique authorization code number which must be used as part of the substitute address.  

How do I use the substitute address?

Once you have received the ACP authorization card you can use the ACP substitute address.  Upon presenting your authorization card, state and local government agencies must accept the ACP substitute address as though it is a person’s actual residential address.  It is the participant’s responsibility to let the agency employees know that they are an ACP participant and that they wish to use the ACP substitute address.  When an ACP participant chooses to reveal his or her actual address, the agency is not legally obligated to keep that information confidential. 

In some situations, where an agency has bona fide statutory or administrative authority for use of or need of an individual’s actual address, the agency may petition the Office of the Attorney General for an exemption to the ACP laws.  If the Office of the Attorney General grants the agency an ACP exemption, program participants involved with that agency may have to reveal their actual location. 

Will private companies accept the substitute address?

Private companies, such as credit card companies, banks, and utility companies, are not required to accept the substitute address.  Some companies, such as utilities, require the actual physical address in order to provide their services.  However, even when a physical address is required, utility and other private companies may be able to accept the substitute address as the mailing address for the participant.  It is the responsibility of each participant to contact private companies and inquire about the possibility of using the substitute address in lieu of the actual address.  

How long can I expect to wait to receive my mail once it is received by the Attorney General’s office?

The ACP receives, sorts, and forwards all first class mail to each participant’s actual residential address.  Due to this process, a participant’s mail will be delayed for several days.  While the Attorney General’s Office makes every attempt to forward mail to participants as quickly as possible, even same day service may delay the participant’s receipt of mail for several days.  The ACP is not responsible for the contents of your mail, including bills, due dates, checks, or other documents.

Finally, if the ACP Post Office Box and/or the ACP Authorization Code number is not on your mail, your mail may never reach you.

If my abuser is a law enforcement officer, how do I keep my address confidential?

Your local domestic violence program should provide you with information about this issue.  The best means of protecting your address from disclosure to your abuser as a law enforcement officer is to seek a protective order against him or her.