How To Lookup Pennsylvania License Plates
Anyone can use an online search tool to look up a Pennsylvania license plate for free. Quickly you can see the vehicle's year, make, model, color, trim level, and sometimes other details. However, using a free service, you will not be able to see any driver details like name, address, phone number, photographs, and more. Strict federal and state Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) laws prevent the general public from looking up someone's personal information through motor vehicle records. The state does have a form you can use to request records, but they only allow requests for a few purposes. When filling out the form, you must supply your name, company name, address, phone number, and your relationship to the individual.
License Plate Laws in Pennsylvania
From 1903 until1906, residents of Pennsylvania supplied their own license plates. Then the state began issuing them along with the vehicle registration. Drivers need only one license plate in Pennsylvania on the rear of their vehicle.
Pennsylvania law prohibits any obstruction of the license plate and warns:
"It is unlawful to display on any vehicle a registration plate which:
- is so dirty as to prevent the reading of the number or letters thereon at a reasonable distance [or];
- is obscured in any manner which inhibits the proper operation of an automated red light enforcement system in place pursuant to section 3116 (relating to automated red light enforcement system in first class cities); or
- is otherwise illegible at a reasonable distance or is obscured in any manner". If you violate this law, you will have to pay a $100 fine".
You must renew your vehicle registration every year or two years, depending on the option you chose when registering it initially. You can renew online or through the mail.
Pennsylvania License Plates
Pennsylvania offers residents its standard license plate, which consists of teal blue, white, and yellow. It also has the state website address on the bottom. Pennsylvania also offers other types of license plates to drivers. Some examples are:
- PennDOT's "Teen Driver" registration plate
- In God We Trust registration plate
- The Wild Resource Conservation Fund
- The Pennsylvania Zoological Council Fund
- The Preserve Our Heritage registration plate
- The Honoring Our Veterans
- Honoring Our Women Veterans
- Pennsylvania Monuments
- Pennsylvania Share the Road
- Pennsylvania Distracted Driving Awareness
The state also offers various military license plates for active and retired personnel, special organization plates and personalized plates where you get to choose the message. Any specialty or personalized plates will cost extra when you register your vehicle.
What is the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania observes the federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), but they also have restricted it even further for people who request motor vehicle records from the state. Pennsylvania has extremely strict privacy laws, and if you violate them, you could be looking at two years in prison, plus a $5,000 fine.
The Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law (RTKL) intersects with the DPPA laws, and therefore, only certain information that falls under public records law will be offered to the public. This is what the state has to say about it: "Driver license information is available only pursuant to 75 Pa. C.S. § 6114 and 67 Pa. Code § 95.2(c). See also 65 P.S. § 67.708 (b)(6). It is also subject to the limitations of the federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. §2721-2725".
However, if an individual or entity falls into one of the allowable categories, they can request personal details of the driver like their name, address, phone number, social security number, driver's license number, etc. When requesting, they must prove they are eligible and provide documentation to substantiate their claim.
Pennsylvania License Plate Search Frequently Asked Questions
Is it Okay to Lookup a License Plate Number in Pennsylvania?
It is only legal to look up very basic vehicle information when performing a license plate search in Pennsylvania. If you are looking for personal details about the driver, you cannot do so unless you fall into one of the "allowable categories". On their motor vehicle requests form, they include a short list of those who can obtain personal information. It is pared down from the federal DPPA laws.
What Will I Have to Supply?
When requesting records through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (form DL-503), you will need to provide your name, company, address, phone number, and relationship to the driver. Then you must have the driver's name, address, phone number, birth date, and driver's license number. You also have to sign an affidavit and get a release signature from the driver. The fees range from $11-$36 for records.
How to Look Up a Pennsylvania License Plate Using the VIN?
The form used by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation does not allow searches using the vehicle VIN. Personal information is heavily guarded in Pennsylvania. However, you can go online and use the NHTSA search tool or the national title registry to obtain additional vehicle information like crash history reports and recalls.
How to Locate the Owner of a License Plate in Pennsylvania?
It is not advisable to search for the owner of a vehicle using their license plate unless you have a legal reason. The DPPA and personal privacy laws in Pennsylvania are very strict, and the penalties are enormous fines and prison. The best thing to do if you need to contact or find the owner of a vehicle is to enlist the help of the local police. If you do search online, make sure you comply with all state and federal DPPA laws.
What are Some Permissible Uses for License Plate Information?
Pennsylvania makes good use of the federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act laws. It pares them down even further so that only a few limited types of people can have access to personal information contained in motor vehicle records. The list on their "Request for Driver Information" form includes:
- Driver Release - for personal use
- Credit Business - (Legitimate Business need in connection with a business transaction initiated by the driver)
- Credit Potential Investor, Server, or Current Insurer - (In connection with an assessment of the credit/payment risks associated with an existing credit obligation)
- Employment - To support the hiring or the continuation of employment
- Insurance Company - requesting a record of the person it intends to insure, now insures, or has rejected for insurance
- Court Order - must be attached. (A subpoena issued in compliance with Pa. R.C.P. 4009.21 will be accepted in lieu of a court order)
- Attorney - representing driver identified in Section C
Many of these require a signed consent form from the driver.
How to Lookup Pennsylvania License Plates for Free?
It is quite easy to look up a Pennsylvania license plate for free online. You can use one of many portals and within seconds see the vehicle's year, make, model, color, trim level, and sometimes other details.