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While it might seem a bit nefarious, it is possible to get a name and address from just a license plate–after all, this is the entire reason people are required to register their cars.
There are many reasons you might want a name and address. Maybe the person was driving recklessly, or maybe you are concerned you have a stalker, either way, contacting the local DMV is your first step.
Read on to learn more about how you can get a name and address for an individual when you only have their license plate.
Contact the DMV
First and foremost, before you contact anyone, ensure you have the full license plate number, including any dashes, as well as the state where the license plate is from. You will need both of these to get any information.
You will need to head to the DMV website where the license plate was registered. So if it was a California license plate, you will need to contact the California DMV. Generally, the DMV website will have a location where you can enter the plate number to request information.
In some states, it is illegal to provide name and address information to just anyone. In these states, you will likely have to call in order to get more information. Find the DMV number on the website and call stating you have a records request. The individual on the phone will be able to tell you more information.
In some states, you will not be provided a name, no matter what you do. In states where license information is protected, only law enforcement officials will be able to get a name and address from a license plate.
Place a Formal Request
When you called the DMV, they may have informed you that you need to make a formal request for license information. If this is the case, then ask them what documentation you need. Sometimes, you will need to fill out a document as well as pay a fee to get your information.
Paid License Plate Services
If you hit a brick wall when you contacted the DMV, don’t despair, as there are several online services that have databases that may have the information you are looking for. Typically these sites do charge for their information, and if you come across a free site, be wary because the information you are provided may be old or incorrect.
Sometimes these sites need more than a license plate in order to get information. They may require car VIN information.
What Kind of Information Can You Get From a License Plate?
The amount of information you can get from just someone’s license plate varies from state to state. In most states, the most you will get is a name and the address where the car is registered.
Occasionally, however, you can also get information regarding traffic citations, registration details, vehicle history, and accident reports. These details are typically only available on paid sites, though, and you’ll want to read the small print before you pay anything. Some sites only have information up to a certain date, and others can’t guarantee certain types of information.
Contact Law Enforcement
If you have a true concern about a certain vehicle, one which may be a danger to yourself or others, call law enforcement. While it can be tempting to try and find out the information yourself, law enforcement will be able to find out much more and be able to charge the person responsible if a crime has been committed.
To contact law enforcement, if it is a true emergency, you can call 911. If you want to report a crime but it is not urgent, many areas have a non-emergency hotline you can call with your information. You can also pay a visit to your local police station and walk in to fill out a report in person.
Typically once you turn in the license plate number to the police, you will not hear anything else about the investigation until it is complete. Once they have finished the investigation, unless it is classified, you will be able to request a report which will indicate the name of the individual to whom the vehicle belonged. It may also list their address depending on the nature of the investigation.
Legal Reasons to Search for License Plate Information
It may seem far-fetched that any citizen can simply request license plate information, but the truth is, this is the entire reason the vehicle registration system was invented. You must, however, have a legal reason to need the information of the individual behind the license plate in order to request it.
Legal reasons for requesting information include
- If you are an insurance provider processing a claim
- Criminal investigations
- Businesses, like a credit company, verifying an individual’s identity
- Agencies performing approved market research
- Public safety concerns
When You Should Take License Plate Information
Even if you don’t have any of the above reasons to request information behind a license plate, there are several situations where you should collect license plate information. Something like a license plate can be helpful in several situations.
1. If You’ve Been in a Car Accident
If you’re in a car accident and uninjured, the first thing you should do is take a picture of the other person’s vehicle, as well as their license plate. This way, even if they flee the scene, you will be able to give their information to authorities and your insurance when requested.
2. There’s a Vehicle Parked for a Long Time
If you notice a vehicle has been parked for an abnormal amount of time, take a picture of the vehicle and the license plate and submit it to the authorities (or your HOA if you have one). You never know if something may have happened to that person, and your submitting the information could notify the police that something is wrong.
Additionally, they’ll be able to get the vehicle towed if it has truly been abandoned.
3. You Fear You Are Being Followed
While true stalkers, like in horror movies, are rare, they can happen to you. If you notice the same care following you everywhere you go and parked outside of the same shops you visit, it might be worthwhile snapping a few quick photos.
You’ll want to send this information to your local police department and express your concerns. They will be able to handle it from there and let you know what the next steps are.
4. Something Isn’t Right
There are occasions when you may be walking your dog, and you see something happen in front of you. Maybe a guy runs out of a building really fast carrying a bag, or you see a couple fighting, and it gets violent. No matter what the reason, snapping a quick picture of the license plate and notifying law enforcement can go a long way in helping them solve a potential crime.
5. You Are Vetting a Tenant
As a landlord, asking for information about the vehicles which will be on your property is legal. It can also be beneficial to take pictures of the vehicles which are allowed on your property to make it easy to check when other vehicles are there.
If you are the property owner, you will likely need to contact a property management company or another firm in order to get any information from just a license plate number. You may also want to contact a lawyer to discuss what is within your right as a landlord when it comes to license plate information.
What to do When You Can’t Get Information from a License Plate
Do you believe you should be entitled to license plate information, but you can’t get it in your state? It might be worthwhile to contact a lawyer to explain the situation. They will be able to better advise you on your next steps and can let you know which information they believe you are privy to.
For example, if a vehicle has been parked on your property for months, but the local law enforcement won’t have it removed, a lawyer can help you through the next steps, even as far as filing a claim for the money you will spend having the vehicle towed.
Final Thoughts on How to Find a Name and Address Using a License Plate
Overall, if all you have is a license plate number, you might find it difficult to find all the information you need about a vehicle's owner. And in most states, just being nosey isn’t enough to get you information from law enforcement. But if a crime truly has been committed, turning the license plate information over to the authorities can go a long way to helping them solve the crime!
Reference Legal Explanations
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"How to Find a Name and Address Using a License Plate". Legal Explanations. Accessed on September 30, 2023. https://legal-explanations.com/blog/how-to-find-a-name-and-address-using-a-license-plate/.
"How to Find a Name and Address Using a License Plate". Legal Explanations, https://legal-explanations.com/blog/how-to-find-a-name-and-address-using-a-license-plate/. Accessed 30 September, 2023
How to Find a Name and Address Using a License Plate. Legal Explanations. Retrieved from https://legal-explanations.com/blog/how-to-find-a-name-and-address-using-a-license-plate/.