Wednesday, 01 February 2023

Aguiar-Curry’s new law to protect victims of elder and domestic abuse signed by governor

Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) announced that her Assembly Bill 1726, legislation to update the state’s 23-year-old confidential address program, “Safe at Home,” has been signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Safe at Home is a confidential address program administered by the California Secretary of State's office that offers survivors of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, human trafficking and elder and dependent abuse, as well as reproductive health care workers, a substitute mailing address to receive first class, certified, and registered mail.

This address is also accepted by California state, county, and city government agencies in lieu of a residential or other mailing address where a victim can be tracked down, keeping the residence address confidential and out of the hands of someone who might want to do them harm.

“The Safe at Home program serves thousands of Californians who fear for their safety. This program has successfully provided protection as part of the safety plan for survivors of, or those at risk of, violence and abuse, since 1999,” said Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters). ”AB 1726 will update this critical program so we can continue to protect into the future.”

As of 2021, there were 5,546 participants in the program, a 14 percent increase from 2020. Of those participants, 3,641 identified as victims of domestic violence.

During 2021 the program received 1,554 applications, and forwarded 81,159 mail pieces to participants.

In addition, Gov. Newsom signed Executive Order N-80-20 during the COVID-19 pandemic, extending the program’s protections to local health officers and other public health officials – groups subject to threats and other harassment in connection with their contributions to protecting public health against COVID-19.

AB1726 updates the program in several ways to work better for participants and provide greater accessibility for applicants.

• Survivors should feel confident enrolling in the program without worrying that their participation will negatively impact their ability to retain custody. AB 1726 clarifies that participation in the program is not an indicator that children are at risk in the participant’s care, an important clarification to protect survivors in custody or dependency case proceedings.

• Keeping program participants’ home locations confidential is at the heart of the Safe at Home program. We have unfortunately seen cases where the abusive party or other individuals disclosed or threatened to disclose the confidential address, in order to intimidate and threaten the participant. AB 1726 strengthens protections against disclosing a participant’s home address and contact information.

• When legal service is made upon the Secretary of State’s office, either in person or by mail, the documents must then be mailed to the program participant, and this can result in a very short time period for the survivor to respond after receiving the court documents. Extending this time period will ensure that program participants are better prepared for any court appearance or response required. AB 1726 expands timelines for court documents to be served if the person is a Safe At Home participant

• Updating information about a move or name change is a time-consuming process for anyone. AB 1726 provides program participants with additional time to notify the Safe At Home program of any change in address or legal name changes without risking termination from the program.

• When a participant’s forwarded mail is returned to the program as undeliverable, it triggers termination from the program. AB 1726 requires the program to attempt to contact the participant via phone or email before terminating the participant for mail being returned as undeliverable, to provide an opportunity for the participant to resolve the issue before being terminated.

• AB 1726 creates clear timelines for a program participant’s termination from the program if they move out of the state, giving participants the opportunity to put in place a safety plan in their new state of residence.

Aguiar-Curry represents the Fourth Assembly District, which includes all of Lake and Napa Counties, parts of Colusa, Solano and Sonoma counties, and all of Yolo County except West Sacramento.

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02.01.2023 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
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