A law 20 years in the making took force with the new year. Illinois now provides privacy protections for individuals who have suffered sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking. Under the new law, these individuals can keep their residential street address, school address, and/or work address confidential and use a different, designated address instead. More so, these individuals can request that state and local agencies report this designated address instead when requested and that official documents like driver’s licenses will reflect this designated address as well.
Individuals who participate in this program can use the address designated by the Attorney General as a mailing address as well. The Office of the Attorney General will receive and then forward the program participants’ mail accordingly. Program participants can also use this address to vote by mail; a mail ballot will automatically be sent to the designated address, and neither their name nor address will be reported in public records of registered voters. The only way that a program participant’s address will be made available by the Attorney General is in response to a law enforcement agency, and only to that agency; or in response to a court order, and only to whom the order specifies.
This is a major stride forward for protecting individuals who have suffered from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. And further, the new law provides protections for individuals who live under the threat of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The new law tells us that it defines domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking as also including the threat of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, regardless of whether it has been reported to law enforcement officers. Individuals can petition to keep their new address confidential if they feel threatened or endangered, not just after the fact.
The program doesn’t change existing records – it only changes how new records are created – so the program works best when a participant applies around the same time they move to the address they want to be kept confidential. The privacy protection lasts for four years and will only be cancelled for four reasons: if the participant moves without giving the Attorney General 7 days’ notice; if mail forwarded by the Attorney General to the participant comes back undeliverable; if the participant applies using false information; or if the participant obtains a name change. This last reason is important for transgender individuals who are fleeing violence and seek to change their name. The Office of the Attorney General has indicated that all these individuals would need to do is, shortly after the name change, reapply using the new name. The reapplication should take only 5 minutes and the Attorney General will issue all new documents reflecting the participant’s new name.
The application can be found here.