Free ways to look up license plate numbers

Updated March 23, 2017

There are few, very narrow instances--most always related to police or judicial action-- in which you can find the owner or home address of a person by using their vehicle registration for free. It requires the right circumstance and leg work on your part. It used to be in many states that a simple request to the Department of Motor Vehicles would produce the name, address and other personal information about a person to whom a number plate is registered. Not any more. There are many web sites that claim they can provide such information for a fee but often times it is inaccurate, incomplete or both. California, one of the last states to allow access to finding the owner of a vehicle and his address, put an end to the practice with state legislation after the stalking death of promising actress Rebecca Schaeffer in 1989. Her killer found her home address through her license registration. California in 1990 clamped down on public access to registration information with an anti-stalking law that was followed by the federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act of 1994 that applies in all states

Suspicious or Dangerous Activity

If you report suspicious or potentially dangerous activity involving a vehicle to police and they investigate, they will file an incident report. It will include the registration information of the vehicle involved in the suspicious or dangerous activity, to whom the vehicle is licensed, address, name of the owner and a narrative on the investigation. The police report is a matter of public record whether or not criminal charges are filed.

Judicial Intervention

If a vehicle is involved in an accident or the occupants of a vehicle are otherwise charged with an offence, the police again will file a report (public information) from which you can determine the owner of the vehicle and the owner's home address. When criminal charges are filed, the case and all the relevant information about the owner of the vehicle, including the number plate registration and the owner's address, becomes part of the court case filed in the clerk of courts office. That information, too, is public record.


This is yet another way to find the home address using the registration of a number plate on a vehicle. If you believe you are being stalked, report it to police and provide them with the vehicle's registration that you believe is being driven by the person who is stalking you. That information will become available vis-a-vis the course of an investigation. If it leads to criminal charges and the stalking involved a vehicle, that information is contained in both the police report and court documents---both sources of public information.

Abandoned Vehicle

If you believe a vehicle has been abandoned and report it to police, again, an incident report will be filed containing the information on the owner, including his address. It's just a matter of checking the incident report with the police department that has jurisdiction in that area.

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About the Author

Chuck Ayers began writing professionally in 1982, breathing life into obituaries, becoming a political and investigative reporter at a major East Coast metropolitan newspaper. He now freelances and is a California communications and political consultant. He graduated from American University, Washington, D.C., with degrees in political science and economics.