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Discover Vehicle Ownership With A Plate Number

This article has been archived and may no longer be updated.


Genie Tyburski, Web Manager, The Virtual Chase


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.


Special thanks to expert public records researcher and private investigator Lynn Peterson for her swift and vast knowledge on this topic, and her willingness to share it.


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Created: 18 May 2001
Revised: 27 November 2007 (archived, no text revisions)
URL: https://www.virtualchase.com/articles/archive/platetrace.html

Suggestions: Genie Tyburski, tvceditor [at] virtualchase [dot] com