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What Pops Up When the Police Run Your Plates?

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Prior to pulling over a car, police officers run the license plate information through a database in case the driver is a potential criminal and they should proceed with caution.Here is some of the information they can obtain in the process.

Vehicle Information

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The first thing police will find is information relating to the vehicle. This includes the year the vehicle was made, the make and model and the vehicle identification number (VIN), along with the expiration date of the license plate and any suspensions placed on the plate. The search will also return the name of the name of the person to whom the vehicle is registered at this time.

Driver Information

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Often, the driver is the person to whom the vehicle is registered. Officers can run a second database search using the registration name to find out the registrant's driver's license information, address, date of birth and Social Security number. This database also provides descriptive information about the owner of the vehicle, including eye color and height, allowing them to determine the likelihood of the driver also being the registrant. This search will also pull up the registrant's driving record.

Criminal History

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Criminals with active warrants can be found during routine traffic stops. After committing a moving violation, the police officer on duty can run the license plate, then cross-reference the vehicle registrant's name in a database of any outstanding arrest warrants. In some cities and states, officers can access local and national records to determine whether the person being pulled over has warrants in other state.

License Plate Readers

A license plate reader can capture license plate information and run it through the databases automatically. If anything pops up on the person's records, an alarm sounds alerting the officer to a potential problem. These scanners can run hundreds of license plate numbers in minutes, making it much easier for officers to identify vehicles that were reported stolen or potential criminal vehicles.


Jack Powell has been writing professionally since 2008. He graduated from Red River College with a degree in creative communications and currently writes for a variety of local publications.

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