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When looking up a New York license plate for free, you can see basic vehicle information like the engine type, manufacturer, make, model, etc. However, if you want additional details, you must comply with state and federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) laws. If you do have a legitimate reason for looking up a New York license plate, you can get additional information. For example, the owner's name, address, phone number, driver's license number, social security number, date of birth, citations, and other vehicle offense history (including DUIs) as well as medical and other details. When requesting, you must use their special form and provide your contact details as well as some driver information.
The state of New York requires all vehicle owners to have a set of two license plates, "one on the front and one on the rear of such vehicle, each securely fastened so as to prevent the same from swinging and placed, whenever reasonably possible, not higher than forty-eight inches and not lower than twelve inches from the ground".
All vehicles in New York must be registered. New York State clarifies by saying, "Your ‘registration' is the sticker placed on your windshield and the paper registration certificate that you must keep in your vehicle". You do not need to put the registration in your name, and it may cover more than one person.
Vehicle registration renewals can be processed at any Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) office, through the mail, or online if you have the proper paperwork. New York does require proof of insurance when registering and renewing.
You cannot renew a vehicle registration in New York if it:
New York offers its residents the standard dark blue and yellow license plate or a variety of others to choose from. You can also order personalized plates (for an additional fee) where you get to choose the characters. Some license plate options in New York are:
New York also has special plates for disabled Americans who need them.
New York follows the federal law Driver's Privacy Protection Act. New York claims you must have a permissible use according to the federal DPPA laws to request records. They further explain that:
"The DPPA also regulates how a recipient of DMV records can share information with another person or organization. The law allows the DMV to release personal information only for the purposes that the DPPA defines".
The state of New York defines personal information as:
They do not consider the following information to be private, and therefore it is publicly accessible:
It is legal to lookup license plate numbers if your search yields only basic information. If, however, you also receive personal details, then you are subject to strict state and federal DPPA laws about access and usage of that information. However, New York does have a Freedom of Information Law Office that handles all public records requests for motor vehicle records that are not covered under DPPA laws.
Using the official Request for Certified DMV Records request form, you must supply your information (name, address, and phone number). You have to sign the form as well and provide some information about the vehicle or driver such as name, and date of birth, or vehicle details like the license plate number, year, make and model or VIN. You must pay $10 for each type of report you request. You must also choose the "permissible use" for which you are requesting the records.
You can easily look up a NY license plate using the VIN and the form mentioned above. The search will cover license plate details or VIN but their way, you are still subject to DPPA laws when requesting and using those records if they contain personal information.
New York does not let the general public look up someone via their license plate unless you have a valid reason. However, if you fall into one of the categories such as an insurance agent, employer, or private investigator, then you can use state-offered resources or any third-party online portal to request and retrieve records, even those that contain personal details.
The state of New York does have its own Driver's Privacy Protection Act, but it also closely follows the federal DPPA. Therefore, when requesting records, they require that you have a "permissible use". Some of those listed on their request form are:
Just about anyone can look up a New York license plate online for free. However, the information gleaned will only be basic vehicle details like year, make, and mode.