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The following is for informational purposes only

Can You Find A Vehicle Owner By USA License Plate?

Individuals may occasionally need to find or identify a vehicle owner for one reason or the other. Unfortunately, inquirers may need more information to go on. In fact, they may only have a USA license plate. That begs the question if it is possible to find a vehicle with a license plate and whether DMVs provide such information to the public? Some alternatives will be covered in the following text. Below we address these and related queries in detail. Learn about the legal aspects of obtaining this information and whether it is possible.

Reasons to Lookup Vehicle Owner by Number Plate

There are a few reasons why individuals should look up a vehicle owner by the license plate. They include:

Dangerous Behavior

Some vehicle owners can depict strange behavior that could be a safety or social issue. For example, when a vehicle owner abandons their car outside private premises (residential or commercial) for a few weeks. Other drivers could be speeding and ignoring traffic lights within neighborhoods. A license plate can help track down the vehicle owner.

Hit and Run Incidents

Statistics show that hit-and-run crashes happen somewhere in the U.S. every 43 seconds. Unfortunately, few vehicle owners successfully catch the culprit. But getting the license plate helps in apprehending the wrongdoer. With the plate number, law enforcement can look up the vehicle owner and take the next steps with insurance providers.

Buying Used Cars

It is common to hear of people buying used cars only to find out later that the authorities reported them stolen. Buying used vehicles demands a lot of trust. But potential buyers can take some of the guesswork out of it by looking up the license plate number. It will help confirm that the seller is the owner or at least affiliated with them.

The Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA)

As a federal law, the DPPA protects licensed drivers' personal identifiable information (PII) from improper disclosure or use. DPPA demands that all states safeguard the privacy of personal information on a person's motor vehicle record. Protected details include the driver's name, phone number, identification number, address, social security number, photograph, gender, age, height, weight, medical or disability information, and fingerprints (in some states). Inquirers may only access personal information for legitimate reasons defined by the act.

Can You Find A Vehicle Owner by License Plate?

Individuals can find a vehicle owned by a license plate, given they have a good reason. Tracking personal details without valid reasons, such as reporting a hit-and-run incident or an abandoned vehicle, will be more challenging. Law enforcement helps victims find owners from such incidents through license plates. Unfortunately, there are better reasons than simply seeing a vehicle's license plate and wanting to track the owner down to gain access to personal information. Depending on the state, individuals who give false reasons to obtain the information risk fines and jail time.

License Plate Check

Inquirers can use state DMV websites for a license plate check. Some DMVs charge a fee for the information, but it depends on the state. A DMV license plate check on the website will produce information like vehicle model, make, and manufacture year. They also include all accidents the vehicle was involved in. It will also include natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes. Reports of the car being stolen at any point or used as collateral for loans are also considered. The last inspection with details on what prompted inspections, the findings, and the last recorded odometer readings are also provided. The system also includes information on who owns the vehicle, company, or individuals. However, personal data such as names, phone numbers, and other contacts are unavailable.

Individuals with a legitimate reason for accessing personal information can contact the DMV for assistance. The department will require signatures on several forms to affirm the request's legitimacy. They may also charge a fee. If the license plate is from another state, the inquirer must contact a DMV in the state. Often, it may require mailing documents or applying online.

Finding a Vehicle Owner by VIN

VIN (or vehicle identification number) is a specific automotive code. The automotive industry uses VIN to identify motor vehicles. The number can also give individuals access to the vehicle's history, engine model, and other vital information.

Individuals can use VIN decoding programs or accessible online search functions to find vehicle information. These platforms will provide information on accidents and thefts associated with the car. The data can also include vehicle integrity. Finding vehicle information by VIN is advantageous for people who want to purchase a used car.

Unfortunately, VIN searches do not give access to personal information. Again, individuals must have a legitimate reason to access such information. In addition, only government bodies such as police forces and law courts can perform unrestricted VIN searches.

Hiring a Private Investigator as an Alternative

Individuals could also hire a private investigator to track down an owner from a vehicle license plate. However, there are limitations to what the private investigator can and cannot do, depending on the state. But generally, private investigators can only run a license plate with a legal reason. Those working independently of law firms and insurance companies cannot get address information from the California DMV. The investigator can only get the name of a registered owner and then track down their whereabouts. It is important to note that using a private investigator can be expensive and risky since some are not legitimate professionals.

Is It Illegal to Lookup a Vehicle Owner by Number Plate?

Searching for vehicle owners by number plates is legal for individuals following the proper procedures and giving legitimate reasons to access personal information. Issues arise when the inquirers misuse the information, such as stalking or harassing the vehicle owner. Using personal information to run background checks, screen tenants, or determine eligibility for loan services is also illegal.

Vehicle Owner Information Can Give You a Lot of Insight

Individuals can find a vehicle owner by a license plate provided they have a legal reason to access personal information as directed by the DPPA. Online searches omit personal information but could give clues on who owns the vehicle. Hiring a private investigator is an alternative to DMV and VIN searches, but again, there are limitations on available information. Individuals involved in hit-and-run incidents or similar situations should use law enforcement, insurance, and DMV sources to find vehicle owners by number plates.

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