Legal Aspects of License Plate Searches

Unlike the general public, police, and courts are among the entities that have the possibility to freely search vehicle owners by inputting license plate data, a provision that falls under Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (1994). If you are not part of these entities and intend to obtain license plate data at the local DMV office, you would be asked for a valid reason for requesting this kind of information and even denied access.

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When using dedicated websites for this search, a popup window might appear informing you that by performing this search, you agree with the provisions of the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act and conduct the search for a purpose authorized by this act – use for other purposes might subject you to liability. Moreover, records of these requests are kept along with the name and purpose of the solicitor.

As written on the Texas DMV’s website, certain businesses, especially vehicle-related businesses may collect and sell information about vehicles and their corresponding owners. This activity does not fall under the incidence of federal/state privacy protection laws, consequently, Texas license plate lookup on dedicated web platforms can yield useful unrestricted information.

Types of Retrievable Data

Some basic information retrievable from a license plate check:

  • Vehicle brand;
  • Model;
  • Year;
  • Trim;
  • Engine;
  • Transmission;
  • the VIN number.

By combining data from license plate checks with data from VIN checks, it is possible to learn not only about the owner and basic details, but also about the entire vehicle history, including maintenance and repair it has undergone, registration/inspection events, thefts of this vehicle, accidents suffered on the road, damage received during fires, floods, hailstorms, whether the vehicle is a subject of a lien, and much more.

Navigating the License Plate Diversity

Many people or organizations in Texas choose to display information about themselves on personalized/customized plates. To give you a feeling of the types of customization involved, consider the following:

  • any vehicle owner can get a personalized plate with 6 or 7 characters (for a fee of roughly $150 per year – or somewhat cheaper if taken for 5 years);
  • special license plates could be issued to reflect affiliation to organizations, charities, colleges, universities, fraternities, sororities, industry and professional groups, historical organizations;
  • license plates could be personalized to support sports and hobbies, causes, as well as belonging to certain interest groups;
  • license plates can reflect military distinctions/affiliation/participation in certain military events.

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While all these tend to tell something about the owner rather than the vehicle, using a dedicated platform like the one mentioned above will add the vehicle’s history to this information, contributing to a bigger picture.

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