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WashingtonLawHelp.orgWashington LawHelp

How to hide your address from a stalker or abuser

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded
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Survivors of abuse, sexual assault, trafficking, or stalking can enroll in a state-run program to keep their address from the person who has been abusing, stalking or harassing them. #3706EN

Contents

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*Read this only if you live in the state of Washington. If you live in another state, check to see if your state has an Address Confidentiality Program.

 

 

Should I read this?

Yes, you should read this if you are a survivor of abuse, sexual assault, trafficking, stalking, or in some cases felony harassment. You may want to keep your address from the person who has been abusing, stalking or harassing you.

If this is the case, you can enroll in the Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) run by the Washington State government. The ACP will give you a safe address for getting mail and legal papers. This can help keep you safe from the person who has been targeting you.

*If you enroll in the ACP, you must let the program know about any change of address. If you are planning to move, you must let the ACP know in writing and you must sign your name. Address changes cannot be made by phone or email.

 

What will I learn from reading this?

  • If you can enroll in the ACP, and how to do it

  • How the ACP works

  • How long you can be in the ACP

 

Am I eligible to take part in the ACP?

Yes, if the following are true:

  • You are a survivor of actual or threatened domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, or stalking; or you are a criminal justice employee who has been a target of felony harassment.

AND

  • You live in Washington State.

AND

  • You move to a place unknown to the perpetrator and out of public records.*

*Not required to take part in the ACP, but highly recommended.

 

How does it work?

The ACP will give you a legal substitute address and a mail-forwarding service. You can use this substitute address on public records. You can also use the substitute address for personal use, just like any new address. We recommend you use the ACP address for all purposes. This will make it less likely that your home address can be found.

Any mail for you will go to the substitute address, which the ACP operates. The ACP team will then forward your mail to your actual address.

Your ACP address will be a P.O. Box number, followed by a Personal Mailbox number (PMB). Every ACP participant will get the same P.O. Box number, but an individualized PMB.  You must always provide your PMB. If you do not, your mail will not be deliverable.

*All ACP addresses are “located” in Olympia, WA (Thurston County).

 

Where should I use the PO Box and PMB the program gives me?

Here are a few examples of places where you should make sure to use your new PO Box and PMB:

  • Court papers

  • Utility companies

  • School  

  • Doctor’s office

  • Bank

  • DSHS and/or other social services

 

How do I sign up for the ACP?

You cannot sign up on your own. An ACP approved Application Assistant has to help you apply. Most application assistants work for the local domestic violence agency.  You can find a list of Application Assistants at https://www.sos.wa.gov/acp/apply.aspx. If your county does not have any Application Assistants, try a county near you.

 

Will this keep me safe?

The ACP can help. It does not by itself guarantee your safety. If used correctly, it can be a valuable part of an overall safety plan. It is not a safety plan all by itself. You should talk with an advocate about making a comprehensive safety plan. To find one nearest you, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.

 

I am moving. Will the ACP automatically forward my mail to a new address?

No. You must let the ACP know in writing with your signature as soon as you can before you move.

 

Can I still vote while I’m in the ACP?

Yes, but carefully read the information you get about voter registration information and ACP-specific voting forms when you sign up for the ACP. You should not register to vote online or at any government office (such as the Department of Licensing, the Department of Social and Health Services, or the Health Benefits Exchange Office).

 

How long can I be in the ACP?

Your enrollment will last 4 years. You can renew at the end of the 4-year term.

 

What if it hasn’t been 4 years, but I don’t need this protection anymore?

You can withdraw from the ACP at any time. Your withdrawal has to be in writing, signed, and mailed or faxed to the ACP.

 

Will the ACP forward all mail to me?

Almost all. The ACP forwards all first-class mail. This includes all registered and certified mail, all personal mail, bills, cards, letters, and so on. The ACP will also forward bank checks.

*The ACP cannot forward packages, magazines, or junk mail.

 

Must state and local government agencies accept my substitute address?

Yes. If you show them the authorization card ACP sends you after you enroll, agencies must accept the ACP substitute address as an actual address. They cannot require you to give your actual addresses.

*Some private companies and federal agencies like the Social Security Administration may not accept your ACP address. If that happens, you could use a friend’s address or the domestic violence shelter’s address. (Make sure you get permission first.)

 

Can I still get subpoenas and other legal mail?

Yes. The ACP accepts legal mail. When the ACP receives service on your behalf, it is treated as you receiving service. However, your ACP address cannot be used to accomplish personal service, so original service of process will need to be accomplished another way.

Be aware that being enrolled in ACP can shorten how much time you may have to respond to legal matters. Your response deadlines will not be affected by ACP participation. But since documents that the court or an opposing party may send you will first go to your ACP address and then be forwarded to your actual address, this can cause your mail to be delayed. If you are involved in any kind of court case, check your mail regularly.

 

Can the ACP ever release my actual address?

Yes, but only if there is a signed court order requiring the release or a written request by a law enforcement agency’s chief officer.

If your abuser is in law enforcement, make sure your ACP application says so. In this situation, a signed court order would be required.

 

Can I refuse to accept mail I get through the ACP?

No. You have to accept all mail forwarded to you by the ACP. Refusing mail can result in termination from the program.

 

Are there alternatives to the ACP that can also help to keep me safe?

Yes, and you should speak with a domestic violence advocate about your options before enrolling in the ACP. To find one nearest you, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.7233.

  • You can get a P.O. Box of your own in a location that won’t easily give away your physical address. The downside is that P.O. Boxes cost money. Also, if you want the P.O. Box to be convenient, your abuser may be able to figure out where you live. In smaller towns, this could be a problem.

  • You could ask a friend or family member if you can use their address. The downside to this is it could put your friend or family member at risk if you think your abuser will target them. Also, your friend or family member could move and not tell you.

 

Where can I find out more?

You can visit the ACP’s website at https://www.sos.wa.gov/acp/ to learn more.

 

Get Legal Help

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help.

 

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Last Review and Update: Jul 20, 2021