How to Run a License Plate

by Erin MartiseUpdated June 08, 2023
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By running a license plate, you can obtain personal information on the owner of a vehicle. There are many reasons why a person may want to run a license plate. However, civilians have limited access to this information. The Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) and the police department are the only authorized personnel legally allowed to trace a license plate.

The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DDPA) has restrictions on the reasons for running a license plate. If your reasons are in compliance, you can contact the DMV or police department to run a license plate.

Things You'll Need

  • License plate number
  • Form of payment

How to Run a License Plate

1. Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV should be your first stop. They will have records of license plate owners. Contact the DMV located in the state of the issued license plate you are attempting to run.

2. Complete a request form

Complete a request form. Some states will have these forms available online. If forms are not available online, request a form from the local DMV.

3. Review the procedure

Review the procedure. Some forms require the signature of a business or government official. For example, the form may need to be completed by an insurance agency if the reason for running the license plate is accident related. Clarify the procedure with an administrator before completing the form.

4. Pay the fees

Pay the fees. The DMV will charge a fee to run a license plate. The fees will vary depending on the state. Check with the local facility for accurate cost.

5. Obtain information

Obtain information. Information regarding the owner of the license plate will be released to you if the DMV feels that your request is in compliance with the DDPA. If your request is denied, you can seek out a private investigator to further assist you.

Tips and Warnings

If you are running a license plate for criminal reasons, contact your local police department. They will also be able to assist you.

There are several online sites where you can run a license plate. They may help you obtain the information you need. However, they cannot protect you legally. If you are found in violation of the DDPA, you could risk legal action.

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