Nowadays, you can find nearly any piece of information about another person with a simple Google search. But what if you don’t have someone’s name to start with? Maybe you witness reckless driving or you’re wondering who keeps parking his car in front of your house. In both cases, you may want to know how to find a name and address using a license plate number.
If you have the vehicle’s license plate number and the state in which the license was issued, there are a few ways to seek out the driver’s information.
Note: State laws dictate what information you can obtain about a driver by looking up a vehicle license plate. In some states, finding a name and address using a license plate number may not be possible or legal.
Contact the DMV
To start, reach out to the appropriate state’s DMV to find out if driver information is considered public information in that jurisdiction. If a records request is allowed in that state, you will be able to file one over the phone or on the DMV website.
Prepare a Formal Request
Most states require you to submit a formal request for information. Typically, these are forms that can be acquired from state government offices, websites, or the DMV. A fee may be associated with making the request, and waiting times for search results vary by jurisdiction.
Review the Results
Once you have filed the request, some state governments will mail a copy of the documents, while others will send a link where the paperwork can be viewed online. Occasionally, you’ll be required to visit a government office to view the documents. You may be able to copy them, but be prepared to pay a nominal copying fee.
Other Search Methods
More often than not, finding a name and address using a license plate number is not authorized by the DMV or other government agencies, so you may result to an internet search.
Simply plugging the license plate number and the state into an online search engine is likely to reveal a number of results. Most of these come from a third-party independent search firm that has the connections necessary to obtain public information documents.
However, be aware that many of these search firms are not reputable. Certain red flags to look for include promises of free searches and immediate results. Many websites that claim their services are free eventually ask for a fee or a paid membership before you receive any actual search results. Search firms that promise instant results are likely using old, out-of-date databases that may yield useless information.
Reputable search firms exist, but they will be upfront about pricing and the timelines for their services.
Authorized Reasons For Accessing License Plate Records
Every state has different regulations for releasing a driver’s information from their license plate records. These regulations are in place to protect individuals, but there are specific authorized reasons that allow the release of the information. Some of these situations include:
- Insurance providers working on a claim
- Law enforcement investigations (car accidents, theft, product recalls)
- Agencies performing market research
- A business attempting to verify an individual’s identity
Public Safety Concerns
Other reasons someone may need a person’s information from their license plate number may be more serious. If you were the victim of a crime like a hit and run, or if someone left a vehicle on your business’ property, contact the authorities immediately.
In either situation, record as much information as you can about the vehicle and its owner. Specifically, take photos of the license plate number, noting the state, city, and expiration date of the plate. You can also take photos of the entire vehicle to help the police identify the suspect. This information will also be helpful for your insurance company, who you should contact next if there was any damage to your vehicle.
For more information on this subject, read on to learn how to look up license plate numbers.