Chapter 15C.

Address Confidentiality Program.

15C-1.  Purpose.

The purpose of this Chapter is to enable the State and the agencies of North Carolina to respond to requests for public records without disclosing the location of a victim of domestic violence, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking; to enable interagency cooperation in providing address confidentiality for victims of domestic violence, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking; and to enable the State and its agencies to accept a program participant's use of an address designated by the Office of the Attorney General as a substitute address. (2002-171, s. 1; 2007-547, s. 4.)

 

15C-2.  Definitions.

The following definitions apply in this Chapter:

(1)        Actual address or address. - A residential, work, or school street address as specified on the individual's application to be a program participant under this Chapter.

(2)        Address Confidentiality Program or Program. - A program in the Office of the Attorney General to protect the confidentiality of the address of a relocated victim of domestic violence, sexual offense, or stalking to prevent the victim's assailants or potential assailants from finding the victim through public records.

(3)        Agency of North Carolina or agency. - Includes every elected or appointed State or local public office, public officer, or official; institution, board, commission, bureau, council, department, authority, or other unit of government of the State or of any local government; or unit, special district, or other political subdivision of State or local government.

(4)        Application assistant. - An employee of an agency or nonprofit organization who provides counseling, referral, shelter, or other specialized services to victims of domestic violence, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking and who has been designated by the Attorney General to assist individuals with applications to participate in the Address Confidentiality Program.

(5)        Attorney General. - Office of the Attorney General.

(6)        Person. - Any individual, corporation, limited liability company, partnership, trust, estate, or other association or any state, the United States, or any subdivision thereof.

(7)        Program participant. - An individual accepted into the Address Confidentiality Program in accordance with this Chapter.

(8)        Public record. - A public record as defined in Chapter 132 of the General Statutes.

(9)        Substitute address. - An address designated by the Attorney General under the Address Confidentiality Program.

(10)      Victim of domestic violence. - An individual against whom domestic violence, as described in G.S. 50B-1, has been committed.

(11)      Victim of a sexual offense. - An individual against whom a sexual offense, as described in Article 7A of Chapter 14 of the General Statutes, has been committed.

(12)      Victim of stalking. - An individual against whom stalking, as described in former G.S. 14-277.3 for acts occurring before December 1, 2008, or G.S. 14-277.3A for acts occurring on or after December 1, 2008, has been committed.

(13)      Victim of human trafficking. - An individual against whom human trafficking, as described in G.S. 14-43.11, has been committed.  (2002-171, s. 1; 2007-547, s. 5; 2009-58, s. 4.)

 

15C-3.  Address Confidentiality Program.

The General Assembly establishes the Address Confidentiality Program in the Office of the Attorney General to protect the confidentiality of the address of a relocated victim of domestic violence, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking to prevent the victim's assailants or potential assailants from finding the victim through public records. Under this Program, the Attorney General shall designate a substitute address for a program participant and act as the agent of the program participant for purposes of service of process and receiving and forwarding first-class mail or certified or registered mail. The Attorney General shall not be required to forward any mail other than first-class mail or certified or registered mail to the program participant. The Attorney General shall not be required to track or otherwise maintain records of any mail received on behalf of a program participant unless the mail is certified or registered mail. (2002-171, s. 1; 2007-547, s. 6.)

 

15C-4.  Filing and certification of applications; authorization card.

(a)        An individual who wants to participate in the Address Confidentiality Program shall file an application with the Attorney General with the assistance of an application assistant. Any of the following individuals may apply to the Attorney General to have an address designated by the Attorney General to serve as the substitute address of the individual:

(1)        An adult individual.

(2)        A parent or guardian acting on behalf of a minor when the minor resides with the individual.

(3)        A guardian acting on behalf of an incapacitated individual.

(b)        The application shall be dated, signed, and verified by the applicant and shall be signed by the application assistant who assisted in the preparation of the application.

(c)        The application shall contain all of the following:

(1)        A statement by the applicant that the applicant is a victim of domestic violence, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking and that the applicant fears for the applicant's safety or the safety of the applicant's child.

(2)        Evidence that the applicant is a victim of domestic violence, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking. This evidence may include any of the following:

a.         Law enforcement, court, or other federal or state agency records or files.

b.         Documentation from a domestic violence program if the applicant is alleged to be a victim of domestic violence.

c.         Documentation from a religious, medical, or other professional from whom the applicant has sought assistance in dealing with the alleged domestic violence, sexual offense, or stalking.

d.         Documentation submitted to support a victim of human trafficking's application for federal assistance or benefits under federal human trafficking laws.

(3)        A statement by the applicant that disclosure of the applicant's address would endanger the applicant's safety or the safety of the applicant's child.

(4)        A statement by the applicant that the applicant has or will confidentially relocate in North Carolina.

(5)        A designation of the Attorney General as an agent for the applicant for purposes of service of process and the receipt of first-class mail or certified or registered mail.

(6)        The mailing address and telephone number where the applicant can be contacted by the Attorney General.

(7)        The address that the applicant requests not to be disclosed by the Attorney General that directly relates to the increased risk of domestic violence, sexual offense, or stalking.

(8)        A statement as to whether there is any existing court order or court action involving the applicant related to divorce proceedings, child support, child custody, or child visitation and the court that issued the order or has jurisdiction over the action.

(9)        A statement by the applicant that to the best of the applicant's knowledge, the information contained in the application is true.

(10)      A recommendation of an application assistant that the applicant have an address designated by the Attorney General to serve as the substitute address of the applicant.

(d)       Upon the filing of a properly completed application, the Attorney General shall certify the applicant as a program participant. Upon certification, the Attorney General shall issue an Address Confidentiality Program authorization card to the program participant. The Address Confidentiality Program authorization card shall remain valid for so long as the program participant remains certified under the Program.

(e)        Applicants shall be certified for four years following the date of filing unless the certification is withdrawn or canceled prior to the end of the four-year period. A program participant may withdraw the certification by filing a request for withdrawal acknowledged before a notary with the Attorney General. A certification may be renewed by filing an application containing the information required by G.S. 15C-3 with the Attorney General at least 30 days prior to expiration of the current certification. (2002-171, s. 1; 2007-547, s. 7.)

 

15C-5.  Change of name, address, or telephone number.

(a)        A program participant shall notify the Attorney General within 30 days after the program participant has obtained a legal name change by providing the Attorney General a certified copy of any judgment or order evidencing the change or any other documentation the Attorney General deems to be sufficient evidence of the name change. If the program participant fails to notify the Attorney General of a name change in the manner provided in this subsection, the Attorney General shall cancel the certification of the program participant in the Program.

(b)        A program participant shall notify the Attorney General of a change in address or telephone number from the address or telephone number listed for the program participant on the application at least seven days before the change occurs. If the program participant fails to notify the Attorney General of a change in address or telephone number in the manner provided in this subsection, the Attorney General shall cancel the certification of the program participant in the Program. (2002-171, s. 1.)

 

15C-6.  Falsifying application information.

An applicant who falsely attests in an application that disclosure of the applicant's address would endanger the applicant's safety or the safety of the applicant's child or who knowingly provides false information when applying for certification or renewal shall lose certification in the Program. The Attorney General shall investigate violations of this section. Upon finding that a violation has occurred, the Attorney General shall assess a civil penalty against the applicant not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500.00). (2002-171, s. 1.)

 

15C-7.  Certification cancellation; records.

(a)        The Attorney General shall cancel the certification of a program participant under any of the following circumstances:

(1)        The program participant files a request for withdrawal of the certification pursuant to G.S. 15C-4.

(2)        The program participant fails to notify the Attorney General of a change in the program participant's name, address, or telephone number listed on the application pursuant to G.S. 15C-5.

(3)        The program participant submitted false information in applying for certification to the Program in violation of G.S. 15C-6.

(4)        Mail forwarded to the program participant by the Attorney General is returned as undeliverable.

(b)        The provisions of Article 3 of Chapter 150B of the General Statutes shall not apply to any cancellation of certification by the Attorney General pursuant to subsection (a) of this section.

(c)        The Attorney General shall send notice of cancellation to the program participant. Notice of cancellation shall set out the reasons for cancellation. The program participant shall have 30 days to appeal the cancellation decision under procedures developed by the Attorney General.

(d)       Any records or documents pertaining to a program participant shall be maintained in accordance with The General Schedule for State Agencies as established by the Department of Cultural Resources.

(e)        An individual who ceases to be a program participant is responsible for notifying persons who use the substitute address designated by the Attorney General as the program participant's address that the designated substitute address is no longer the individual's address. (2002-171, s. 1.)

 

15C-8.  Address use by State or local agencies.

(a)        The program participant, and not the Attorney General, is responsible for requesting that agencies of North Carolina use the address designated by the Attorney General as the substitute address of the program participant.

(b)        Except as otherwise provided in this section, when a program participant submits a current and valid Address Confidentiality Program authorization card to an agency of North Carolina, the agency shall accept the address designation by the Attorney General on the authorization card as the program participant's substitute address when creating a new public record.

(c)        An agency may request a waiver from the requirements of the Address Confidentiality Program by submitting a waiver request to the Attorney General. The agency's waiver request shall be in writing and include an explanation of why the agency cannot meet its statutory or administrative obligations by possessing or using the substitute address and an affirmation that, if the Attorney General accepts the waiver, the agency will only use the program participant's actual address for those statutory or administrative purposes.

(d)       The Attorney General's acceptance or denial of an agency's waiver request shall be made in writing and include a statement of specific reasons for acceptance or denial. Acceptance or denial of an agency's waiver request is not subject to further review.

(e)        A board of elections shall use the actual address of a program participant for all election-related purposes and shall keep the address confidential from the public under the provisions of G.S. 163-82.10(d). Use of the actual address on letters placed in the United States mail by a board of elections shall not be considered a breach of confidentiality. The substitute address designation provided by the Attorney General shall not be used as an address for voter registration or verification purposes.

(f)        For purposes of levying and collecting property taxes on motor vehicles pursuant to Article 22A of Chapter 105 of the General Statutes, the Attorney General shall issue to the county, city, or town assessor or tax collector a list containing the names and actual addresses of program participants residing in that county, city, or town. This list shall be used only for the purposes of listing, appraising, or assessing taxes on motor vehicles and collecting property taxes on motor vehicles in the county, city, or town. The county, city, or town assessor or tax collector or any current or former officer, employee, or agent of any county, city, or town, who in the course of service to or employment by the county, city, or town has access to the name and actual address of a program participant, shall not disclose this information to any other person.

(g)        The substitute address designated by the Attorney General shall not be used for purposes of listing, appraising, or assessing taxes on property and collecting taxes on property under the provisions of Subchapter II of Chapter 105 of the General Statutes.

(h)        The substitute address designated by the Attorney General shall not be used as an address by any register of deeds on recorded documents or for the purpose of indexing land registered under Article 4 of Chapter 43 of the General Statutes in the index of registered instruments pursuant to G.S. 161-22.

(i)         A local school administrative unit shall use the actual address of a program participant for any purpose related to admission or assignment pursuant to Article 25 of Chapter 115C of the General Statutes and shall keep the actual address confidential from the public under the provisions of this Article. The substitute address designated by the Attorney General shall not be used as an address for admission or assignment purposes. For purposes of student records created under Chapter 115C of the General Statutes, the substitute address designated by the Attorney General shall be used.

(j)         Except as otherwise provided in this section, a program participant's actual address and telephone number maintained by an agency of North Carolina is not a public record within the meaning of Chapter 132 of the General Statutes. A program participant's actual address or telephone number maintained by the Attorney General or disclosed by the Attorney General pursuant to this Chapter is not a public record within the meaning of Chapter 132 of the General Statutes. (2002-171, s. 1.)

 

15C-9.  Disclosure of address prohibited.

(a)        The Attorney General is prohibited from disclosing any address or telephone number of a program participant other than the substitute address designated by the Attorney General, except under the following circumstances:

(1)        The information is requested by a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency for official use only.

(2)        The information is required by direction of a court order. However, any person to whom a program participant's address or telephone number has been disclosed shall not disclose the address or telephone number to any other person unless permitted to do so by order of the court.

(3)        Upon request by an agency to verify the participation of a specific program participant when the verification is for official use only.

(4)        Upon request by an agency, in the manner provided for by G.S. 15C-8.

(5)        The program participant is required to disclose the program participant's actual address as part of a registration required by Article 27A of Chapter 14 of the General Statutes.

(b)        The Attorney General shall provide immediate notification of disclosure to a program participant when disclosure is made pursuant to subdivision (2) or (4) of subsection (a) of this section.

(c)        If, at the time of application, an applicant is subject to a court order related to divorce proceedings, child support, child custody, or child visitation, the Attorney General shall notify the court that issued the order of the certification of the program participant in the Address Confidentiality Program and the substitute address designated by the Attorney General. If, at the time of application, an applicant is involved in a court action related to divorce proceedings, child support, child custody, or child visitation, the Attorney General shall notify the court having jurisdiction over the action of the certification of the applicant in the Address Confidentiality Program and the substitute address designated by the Attorney General.

(d)       No person shall knowingly and intentionally obtain a program participant's actual address or telephone number from the Attorney General or an agency knowing that the person is not authorized to obtain the address information.

(e)        No employee of the Attorney General or an agency shall knowingly and intentionally disclose a program participant's actual address or telephone number to a person known to the employee to be prohibited from receiving the program participant's actual address or telephone number, unless the disclosure is permissible by law. This subsection only applies when an employee obtains a program participant's actual address or telephone number during the course of the employee's official duties and, at the time of disclosure, the employee has specific knowledge that the actual address or telephone number disclosed belongs to a program participant.

(f)        Any person who knowingly and intentionally obtains or discloses information in violation of this Chapter shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor and assessed a fine not to exceed two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500). (2002-171, s. 1.)

 

15C-10.  Assistance for program applicants.

(a)        The Attorney General shall designate agencies of North Carolina and nonprofit organizations that provide counseling and shelter services to victims of domestic violence, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking to assist individuals applying to be program participants. Any assistance and counseling rendered by the Office of the Attorney General or its designee to applicants shall in no way be construed as legal advice.

(b)        The Attorney General, upon receiving notification pursuant to G.S. 15A-832(h), shall, within 96 hours of receiving the notification, issue the victim a letter of certification of eligibility or other relevant document entitling the person to have access to State benefits and services. (2002-171, s. 1; 2007-547, s. 8.)

 

15C-11.  Limited liability.

The State, agencies of North Carolina, and their officers, officials, employees, and agents, both past and present, in their official and individual capacities, shall be immune and held harmless from any liability in any action brought by or on behalf of any person injured or harmed by the actions or inactions of these entities and individuals in implementing this Chapter. However, if an employee's actions resulting in harm were not within the course and scope of the employee's duties, then that employee may be subject to suit as an individual to the extent permitted by the laws of the State of North Carolina. (2002-159, s. 28.5; 2002-171, s. 1.)

 

15C-12.  Rule-making authority.

The Attorney General is authorized to adopt any rules deemed necessary to carry out the provisions of this Chapter. (2002-171, s. 1.)

 

15C-13.  Additional time for action.

Whenever the laws of this State provide a program participant a legal right to act within a prescribed period of 10 days or less after the service of a notice or other paper upon the program participant, and the notice or paper is served upon the program participant by mail pursuant to this Chapter, five days shall be added to the prescribed period. (2002-171, s. 1.)