When looking up license plate information for free using an online portal, you will only see basic details for the vehicle, such as year, make, and model of the car or truck. If you have the need for more detailed information such as the vehicle owner's name, address, phone number, driving records, social security number, date of birth, or other data, you can use a paid service to lookup motor vehicle records. However, these records that contain personal information are highly regulated by state and federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) laws. If you violate these laws by accessing files or using them without consent, you may be fined and imprisoned.
When requesting records through the state, you will need your name, address, and phone number plus documentation that you are on the list of permitted businesses that can access it.
Historically Ohio residents had to display two license plates on their vehicles (one on the front bumper and one on the rear). However, in a new law that goes into effect on July 1, 2020, residents will no longer need to have one on the front of their vehicles.
When registering a new vehicle in Ohio, vehicle owners must sign a Financial Responsibility Statement. To register, you must visit a deputy registrar license agency and provide the following:
Ohio renews leased vehicles based on your last name with each month corresponding to letters of the alphabet. For owned vehicles, the expiration month will be your birthday. When renewing, you must visit a deputy registrar license agency and fill out the same Financial Responsibility Statement and pay your fees.
Along with the standard license plate offered to most Ohio citizens, the state offers dozens of special interest plates along with disability and military plates as well. A small sampling of some of the license plate options in Ohio are:
The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles uses a form, the "Ohio BMV Record Request Form" for requesters to use for motor vehicle records with personal details. The form lists qualifying permissible circumstances for which the information can be disclosed. These permissible circumstances are consistent with the federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act. The form also gives the following warning and disclaimer:
"Pursuant to R.C. 4501.27, I understand that if I receive personal information from the results of this request, I may not disclose that information except as authorized under R.C. 4501.27 and that if I disclose any personal information, I must keep for a period of five years a record that identifies each person or entity that receives any of the personal information and the permitted purpose for which the information is to be used, and I must make all such records available to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles upon request. I understand that any unauthorized disclosure may result in civil penalties and fines.
I hereby certify that all of the information contained on this form is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge and belief. I understand that providing false information may constitute a criminal offense of falsification with a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail and a $1000 fine".
It is legal to lookup license plates in Ohio but with a caveat. You cannot look up records that contain personally identifiable information such as name, address, phone number, email address, medical history, date of birth, social security number, driver's license number of other details unless you qualify under the DPPA laws. If you do, then you can request records, pay the fee, and use it for business or individual use.
When requesting records through the state method (mentioned above), you will need your name, the company name (if applicable), your address, phone number, and email address. You can choose to have the results emailed to you or mailed. If you are requesting records for anyone other than yourself, you can provide their name, driver's license number, date of birth, license plate number, VIN, or title number from which to search. You must also provide your purpose and a signature.
You can look up an Ohio license plate using a VIN online with a public records portal for basic information. If you need vehicle owner details, you can use the state-approved method (if you qualify under DPPA laws). You may also lookup a VIN using the NHTSA website or national title registry to find crash reports, vehicle history, and recalls.
You cannot use a license plate lookup to find the owner in Ohio unless you have a valid reason for doing so. For example, if you are a tow truck driver and found an abandoned vehicle on the road and needed to locate the owners to come to pick it up, you could use one of the online sources to find the owner. Only specific types of individuals and businesses can use these tools for this purpose.
Ohio considers only a few legal uses for license plate information and personal driver details. On their form, they mention DPPA laws and require that you qualify under one of the following:
It is very easy to use an online portal to lookup an Ohio license plate for free. However, you will only see basic details for the vehicle, such as year, make, and model of the car or truck.