8 December 2004. A TVC site visitor asks:
How can I find out who owns a vehicle when I have only the license plate number?
Generally speaking, having only a license plate number, you cannot obtain vehicle
ownership information. The Driver's Privacy Protection Act (18 U.S.C.
§2721) prohibits state motor vehicle agencies from disclosing personal
information except in certain circumstances.
New York State's Department of Motor Vehicles outlines
permissible uses of
personal information under federal law. Attorneys and legal researchers
should note that state agencies may disclose such information provided the
requester avows to use it in connection with a court or agency matter like
service of process or research in anticipation of litigation.
Even with a permissible use, however, a state agency may require that you
submit information in addition to the plate number. See, for example, the
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's
FAQ on public records.