- Associated Press - Thursday, September 28, 2017

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - State confidentiality programs aimed at hiding the home addresses of domestic violence victims could be expanded under federal legislation introduced by Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt on Thursday.

Missouri is one of 36 states with programs that let victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or various other crimes keep their addresses confidential by routing their mail through a post office box run by the state, according to the nonprofit National Center for Victims of Crime. Participants also can use a substitute address in court proceedings or when creating other new public records.

But Blunt’s office says it’s unclear whether the federal government has to accept substitute addresses from Missouri and other state programs. If it becomes law, the federal legislation would ensure those addresses could be used in federal court proceedings, passport applications, applications for federal student aid and other federal records.

Blunt in a statement said the bill “will ensure victims have the same privacy protections whether they’re applying for a passport or a local library card.”

Federal records with the home addresses of program participants would also be exempt from open-records requests.

Co-sponsors of the bill include Democratic Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, and Republican Rep. Jason Smith, who represents southeast Missouri, is sponsoring the legislation in the House.

Missouri’s program, called Safe at Home, came under scrutiny after a St. Louis County circuit judge last year required a woman who alleged that her husband had abused her to disclose her address during a divorce proceeding. The judge said the Safe at Home application didn’t have a sworn statement from the woman about her alleged abuse, and such a statement is required by state law.

Missouri’s Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who took office in January, has since updated the application forms to include a sworn statement. About 1,500 victims were asked to reapply with the new application.

Ashcroft spokeswoman Maura Browning on Thursday said the Missouri law has also since been amended to allow the Secretary of State’s Office to intervene and receive notice if judges consider requiring participants to disclose their addresses.

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