How To Lookup South Carolina License Plates
The public can use online search portals to easily lookup a South Carolina license plate. However, most of them will show you only vehicle details such as the vehicle year, make, model, trim level, engine type, driveline, type of braking system, transmission, manufacturer, and even the MSRP. If you qualify under state and federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) laws, you can pull a complete report which will have the driver's name, address, phone number, sometimes photographs, social security number, driver's license number, and other personal details. When applying, you must provide your contact details, a signature, and sometimes a signed consent form from the vehicle owner. However, privacy laws are very strict in South Carolina, and along with federal penalties, which may include fines and jail time, you could also face a civil lawsuit with damages starting at $5,000 or more.
South Carolina Motor Vehicle Regulations
According to South Carolina Code 56-3-1240. Display of license plates; motorcycles equipped with vertically mounted brackets; missing plates:
"Every license plate, at all times, must be fastened securely in a horizontal and upright position to the vehicle for which it was issued so as to prevent the plate from swinging."
You must visit a South Carolina DMV branch in person to register your vehicle initially. After that, you can renew it online through the South Carolina DMV website. When renewing, you must have the title of your vehicle, your old registration, proof of insurance, and payment for the fees. You must also pay personal property taxes on the vehicle before you can register it. Some counties allow you to pay those taxes online.
Property taxes are paid every year, whereas vehicle registrations are for two years. Therefore, you may see a different expiration date on your license plates and your vehicle registration.
South Carolina License Plates
South Carolina has a standard license plate they issue to most residents. They describe it here: "Introduced in late 2015, the "While I Breathe, I Hope" license plate or the state's regular plate, has a classic design with a strong South Carolina theme. Like the state flag, the plate is white and indigo with a palmetto tree and crescent."
Along with antique and personalized plates (where you choose the lettering), South Carolina also offers its residents some specialty plates such as:
- Military plates (for all branches).
- Allen University.
- Amateur Radio.
- Autism Awareness.
- Beaufort Water Festival.
- Boy Scouts of America.
- Carolina Panthers.
- Donate Life.
- Eagle Scouts.
- Ducks Unlimited.
- Farm Vehicle.
- In Reason We Trust.
- Kiwanis International Foundation.
The list above is just a small sampling of the license plate options available in South Carolina.
What is the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) in South Carolina?
South Carolina honors the federal DPPA laws but also has its own. In conjunction with the federal DPPA, the Department of Motor Vehicles website explains that the South Carolina Family Privacy Protection Act(SC Code §30-2-10) and the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act(SC Code §30-4-10) also "control the release and use of personal information from DMV records." Additionally, the website states:
Additionally, they warn that "The DPPA does not protect against information gathered through collision reports, traffic tickets, or your current license status."
The state of South Carolina has prepared a disclosure that clearly explains the law and how it works.
South Carolina License Plate Search Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Legally Look Up License Plate Numbers in South Carolina?
It is legal to look up a license plate number in South Carolina as long as you are looking for basic vehicle information and not information about the owner. If you qualify under DPPA laws, then it is legal for you to request a report that does contain personal driver details. South Carolina has strict privacy laws and harsh penalties for violating them.
What Information Do I Need When Requesting Records?
When requesting records through the South Carolina DMV, you must fill out a form MV-70 and provide a bunch of information. Some of the things you will need are your name, address, phone number, account number (if applicable), and then your signature. In some cases, you must provide signed consent from the vehicle owner. You then need to provide the owner's name, date of birth, and either their driver's license number, beginner's permit number, or another ID number.
How to Look Up a South Carolina License Plate Using the VIN?
Using the method outlined above using South Carolina's DMV, you cannot search for license plate or driver records using the VIN. If you need more information about a vehicle, you can always use the NHTSA tool online, or the national title registry to find crash reports, recalls, and other information.
How to Find the Owner of a License Plate in South Carolina?
In South Carolina, you are not allowed to look up the owner of a license plate and contact them for any reason, unless you comply with strict DPPA laws. You must fall into one of the allowable categories and provide documentation to substantiate your qualifications. If you have a legitimate reason to locate the owner of a vehicle in South Carolina, you might ask the local police for help.
How Can I Use License Plate Information?
South Carolina restricts access to motor vehicle and license plate records to only a few allowable purposes. Using their MV-70 form, a qualified person or business can request records as long as they agree to use them for one of the following:
- For use by any government agency in carrying out its functions.
- For a business to verify the accuracy of personal information previously provided to the business.
- To use in any court proceeding or investigation in anticipation of litigation.
- For research and statistical purposes, so long as the personal information is not published, redisclosed, or used to contact individuals. (Such requests are processed only in Blythewood DMV Headquarters.
- For use by an insurer for claims investigations, rating, and underwriting.
- For use by an employer or its insurer to verify commercial driver license information.
- For any other use by the driver or by written consent of the driver.
How Can I Look Up South Carolina License Plates for Free?
You can easily lookup a South Carolina license plate for free online using a variety of different public records portals. However, most of them will show you only vehicle details such as the vehicle year, make, model, trim level, engine type, driveline, type of braking system, transmission, manufacturer, and even the MSRP.