With increased public access to personal information, there is a rising need for address confidentiality for victims of family violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Fearing for their safety, many victims do not obtain a driver's license or register to vote.
Texas has a new program to help these victims of family violence, sexual assault, and stalking keep their actual address confidential. The Texas Address Confidentiality Program (ACP), administered by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), provides a substitute post office box address and free mail forwarding service for participants.
ACP is a safety tool and intended as one step in an overall safety plan. It is neither a witness protection program nor a guarantee of safety.
Laws governing the ACP program are found in Chapter 56, Subchapter C, of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.
Under the program, the OAG designates a substitute post office box address that a participant may use in place of an actual residential, business, or school address and acts as an agent to receive service of process and mail on behalf of the participant. First class mail received at the substitute address will be forwarded to the ACP participant.
This substitute address can be used as the participant's main address for driver's license, voter, and school registration, as well as for most court and government documents. Nongovernmental entities such as banks, credit unions, credit card companies, and private utilities are not required to accept the ACP address. However, if the participant describes the purpose of the program they may be willing to do so.
Applicants must meet with a local domestic violence shelter, sexual assault center, law enforcement, or prosecution staff member to discuss a safety plan and to enroll in the program. To get contact information for local family violence shelters, please access the Texas Council on Family Violence website at www.tcfv.org or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. To contact local sexual assault centers please access the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault website at www.taasa.org or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656 HOPE. Meeting with an advocate is vital to this process and required by law [Texas Code Crim. Proc., Art. 56.83 (a)(1)].
The advocate then submits the application directly to the Office of the Attorney General. The OAG will not accept applications submitted directly by victims.
A safety plan is a checklist used to assess risk and identify actions to increase safety for victims. The Address Confidentiality Program is one tool to use in a comprehensive safety plan. A safety plan includes:
The participant must notify the Address Confidentiality Program of a name or address change ten days prior to the change to avoid withdrawal from the program. The program will provide forms for this process.
If participation is cancelled, the OAG will send written notification and appeal information to the participant. Program participation may be cancelled under the following circumstances:
Participants are entitled to register to vote and receive ballots by mail through their temporary address while in the Address Confidentiality Program. Participants choosing to vote must register in person. Please contact the Secretary of State either toll-free at 800-252-VOTE (8683) or via their website at www.sos.state.tx.us for additional information.
Participants must visit their local Texas Department of Public Safety's driver license office in person to request a change of address and to present their ACP authorization card. For more information, please visit the TxDPS website at www.txdps.state.tx.us.
State law and local school policies require school districts and open-enrollment charter schools to use information regarding the location of a student's residence to make determinations regarding a student's eligibility to enroll, appropriate campus assignment, and transportation eligibility. Participants should understand that if they choose not to disclose an actual residential address to a district or charter, that an alternate method must be used to verify a child's eligibility for enrollment, campus assignment, and/or transportation. Participants must agree to consult with an appropriate district or charter school administrator or the administrator's designee regarding these matters. To assist in the certification of eligibility for public school enrollment and school transportation service, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has prepared guidance and a school enrollment affidavit for ACP participants. Guidance and the affidavit are available on the TEA Web site. Inquiries regarding state laws relating to eligibility for school enrollment and transportation may be directed to Office of General Inquiry at 512 463-9290.
Participants should further understand that public schools routinely designate certain student information, including names and addresses, as "directory information" that is available to the public. Participants have the right to object to the release of directory information. Schools can provide assistance regarding which information is designated directory and the proper procedure for notifying the school of an objection to the release of such information. Participants may obtain information on school registration by contacting the Texas Education Agency at (512) 463-9734 or by visiting their website at www.tea.state.tx.us.
The attorney general shall disclose a participant's true residential, business, or school address if required by court order or if requested by:
Victims can register with Texas VINE for updated about offender custody and court status.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice: The ACP address may be used to register with the Victim Services Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). Their confidential victim notification system provides written information about offenders' parole review status, location, release date, etc. Information about registration may be obtained by contacting TDCJ - Victim Services Division (800)848-4284 or (512) 406-5900 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.tdcj.state.tx.us.<