How to Search for a Car Tag to Identify the Owner

by Damica Brownswood
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Michael Smith/Getty Images News/Getty Images

There are many reasons why you may want to identify the owner of a vehicle by the car tag, or license plate. For example, you may be a crime victim or an employee of a business seeking to verify the accuracy of information submitted by someone. Several websites are available to help you find car tag information. However, according to the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), it is illegal to perform a reverse-license-plate search unless you have a legal reason to do so.

Before you try to use such a website, you should review the privacy act to ensure that your reason is protected. The safest way to obtain car tag information is to contact the department of motor vehicles (DMV) or the state police department in the state that issued the plate.

Step 1

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Contact the state police department in the state that issued the car tag. If your reason for obtaining a tag owner's identity involves an accident or crime, file a police report. Police may not release the owner's identity. Instead, the department may offer to help you filing a report.

Step 2

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Contact the DMV. If your search isn't related to an accident or crime, contact the DMV in the state that issued the car tag. The DMV will have records on all license plate numbers in that state.

Step 3

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Complete a request form. Many states have these forms available online. If not, request a form from the DMV. Read the instructions carefully. Some forms require the signature of a business or government official. This signature is to verify the legal reason why you need the requested information.

Step 4

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Pay the appropriate fee. The DMV will charge a fee to perform a reverse-license-plate search. The fees vary. Check with the DMV for a current fee schedule.

Step 5

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Obtain the identity of the owner of the car tag. Information regarding the owner will be released to you if the DMV feels that your request is in compliance with the law. If your request is denied, you can hire a private investigator to help you.

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