Private individuals cannot get information from a license plate number in the state of Indiana through the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV). An Indiana license plate lookup is only accessible by verified, licensed businesses and individuals who qualify under specific categories. Some third-party sites may offer some information, but they are not always reliable. If someone needs to run a plate because of an accident, their insurer or law enforcement can conduct the search.
Driver's Privacy Protection Act
The federal government enacted the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) in 1994 to protect the information of vehicle owners and drivers that is assembled by state Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The law prohibits the release or use of information by the DMV, its contractors and law enforcement in connection with a motor vehicle record.
The DPPA requires states to get permission from the individual before their information can be sold or otherwise released to a third-party.
Using Protected Vehicle Information
The information protected under the Act includes: the individual's name, address, phone number, Social Security number, driver's license number, photograph, age, height, weight, gender, disability or medical information, and fingerprints (depending on the state.) Accidents, traffic violations or license status do not apply under this Act. Under the DPAA, a driver's information from their record can be used for:
- Government agency functions.
- Vehicle theft, safety, emissions or product recalls.
- Vehicle surveys and market research.
- Transactions initiated by individuals to verify personal information for legitimate business purposes.
- Administrative, arbitration, civil or criminal proceedings.
- Research or statistic reports, as long as the information is not used to contact individuals.
- Insurance activities.
- Notice for impounded or towed vehicles.
- Functions of security services or licensed investigators.
- Toll transportation facility activities.
- In response to a request for records if the state has permission from that individual.
- Bulk marketing purposes if the state has permission from that individual.
- Legitimate use by the state if it relates to public vehicle safety.
Indiana License Plate Search Through the BMV
Some entities can look up Indiana license plates through the BMV's subscription service, but that information is not accessible to the general public. BMV Enhanced Access provides information for verified, licensed businesses and individuals. An entity requesting enhanced access must be in a specific business or category to access a driver's information in Indiana. They are:
- Auto dealers.
- Bail bond businesses.
- Debt collectors.
- Insurance agencies.
- Mobile home parks.
- Private investigation agencies.
- Recovery agents.
- Security guard services.
- Law enforcement.
- Towing companies.
A person or entity who does not fall under any of these categories can petition the Indiana BMV for enhanced access by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Misuse of the information is punishable by law.
Public Access to License Plate Owner Information
Since a member of the general public cannot find most information on their own, they have few options. Third-party search engines may give results, but these websites are often not reputable. Many claim to be free to use when they are not, or their information may be outdated.
If someone has witnessed a crime or is a victim of one, they can visit their local police station or give them a call with the license plate number so law enforcement can investigate. If there has been damage done to an individual's car, they can also contact their insurance company, who can track down the owner of the other car to get their insurance 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.
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.