Indiana's laws do not permit private individuals to search the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) records using a license plate number. If you need to run an Indiana license plate because of a traffic accident, ask your insurer to conduct the search for you, make a police report or go to court.
Indiana License Plate Search
In many states you can go into the Department or Bureau of Motor Vehicles with a license plate number and fill out a form to learn the identity of the owner of the car with that plate. This is no longer possible in Indiana.
In recent years, Indiana has become concerned about the privacy of its residents, therefore it no longer allows private persons to run an Indiana license plate number. Indiana license plate lookup is now limited to certain professionals and insurers who register with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
The Indiana BMV offers a subscription service to run license plate searches to private investigators, security guard companies, and insurance companies that have their names and addresses on file with the state. No other businesses or individuals are allowed to conduct these searches.
Read More: How to Research License Plates
Indiana Driver License or Registration Search
What can a private person do? You can become a BMV subscriber for about $100 annually. This buys you access to title information, lien information, driver's license information and registration information.
However, you cannot get these by searching with a license plate number. Instead, even if you register and pay the search fee, you must have an individual's Social Security number, the title number, the car's VIN number and/or other pertinent information to conduct a search.
Gathering Information for Court Cases
If you were the victim of a hit and run accident and you got the license plate number, what do you do with that information in Indiana? First, you turn it over to the police. The police in Indiana have access to this BMV information.
A specific exception provides that the confidential BMV information may be disclosed "For use by any government agency, including any court or law enforcement agency, in carrying out its functions, or any private person or entity acting on behalf of a Federal, State, or local agency in carrying out its functions."
If you are filing a civil suit for damages against the owner of a car, you can obtain confidential BMV records with only a license plate, as well. According to the Indiana Public Access Counselor, court document discovery demands (called subpoenas) are issued under the authority of the judiciary. This means that a subpoena would be enough to allow the BMV to disclose otherwise confidential records.
Beware Third Party Websites
BMV searches offered online for a fee by a third-party website should be viewed with a cautious eye. BMV employees say that they are likely based on outdated information.
- There are several websites where you can run a license plate number. They may help you obtain the information you need. However, they cannot protect you legally. If you are found in violation of the DPPA, you could risk legal action.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.