If you are a victim of license plate theft, call the police as soon as possible. Your local police agency will maintain a stolen license plate register and may be able to assist you in locating the stolen plate. You must also contact your state's DMV to obtain a temporary license plate so that you can drive your vehicle.
If your license plate was stolen, consider contacting your insurance company to see if you are covered for this type of theft.
This type of theft is far more common than most of us think, so here are the steps you must follow to get a replacement plate and report yours stolen.
Why Would Someone Steal a License Plate?
Thieves steal license plates for three main reasons.
- A thief might want to conceal the identity of a stolen vehicle—and use your license plate to do it.
- Some license plates may have monetary value as collection items; perhaps the thief intends to sell yours.
- Some people steal license plates so they can avoid traffic, red lights, and speeding fines. Cameras will capture your stolen plate number, and you will get the ticket instead of the perpetrator.
Regardless of the reason, stealing a license plate is a serious crime.
What To Do If Your License Plate Was Stolen?
If your license plate is stolen, it is important to take immediate action.
Report License Plate Theft To The Police
The first step is to report the theft to your local police department. They will cross-check your plate number in their records and will also create an incident report. If you’re lucky, they may just find your stolen plate (but don’t hold your breath).
Remember that reporting a stolen plate is not optional–it's required by law. The police will need to know when and where the theft occurred, as well as any identifying information about the license plate.
Get A Police Report
If your license plate is stolen, you need a police report as soon as possible. While it may seem like a hassle, the report can be used to help prevent identity theft and to clear your name if you are ever ticketed for a traffic violation that was committed by the person who stole your plate.
The report can also be used to support an insurance claim if your vehicle is ever involved in an accident or stolen.
Report The Stolen Plate To Your DMV Office
Once a police report has been filed, you will need to visit the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office to cancel the license plates that were stolen, and obtain a replacement plate. When your plates are lost or stolen, you must be able to prove that you are the registered owner of the vehicle before you can get replacement plates.
Applying for new license plates can be a time-consuming process. While many DMVs now allow you to download the necessary forms and apply online, most require an in-person visit.
Before you visit your local DMV learn what submission method your DMV requires. Some states require you to email the application for replacement plates, while others require you to submit it in person.
You should also find out whether or not the application needs to be notarized.
In most cases, you will receive temporary license plates and tabs while you are waiting for your new permanent plates. However, in some cases you may need to collect the new plates in person.
Knowing these simple requirements ahead of time will save you a lot of time and hassle when applying for new license plate registration.
Check with your local DMV by calling them or visiting your state’s DMV (or equivalent organization) website:
Obtain a Temporary Tag Or a New Plate
In most states, temporary and new license plates are issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). In some states, the plates are issued by a different agency, such as the Department of Transportation or Department of Revenue.
Some of the most common types of license plates include:
- Standard license plates are issued for passenger vehicles, commercial motor vehicles, motorbikes, permanent trailers, trailer coaches, and park trailers.
- Special interest plates are issued as a support for arts, environmental causes, or various charities.
- Special license plates are personalized license plates issued to recognize service, achievements, licenses, status, historical significance, occupations, etc. Subcategories of special license plates include:
- Special license plates: exempt, livery, historical vehicles, HAM radio, military and veteran
- Occupational license plates: dealers, dismantlers
- Special Recognition license plates: Legion of Valor, Purple Heart, Gold Star Family, etc.
- Apportioned license plates: power unit and prorate
- Legislative license plates: Senate, Assembly
- The off-highway vehicle "plate" is a self-stick decal that you affix directly to an OHV or other off road-only vehicle.
- Agricultural license plates and farm vehicle plates are available in most states and are usually less expensive than standard license plates. When it comes to license plates, agricultural vehicles have a few different options. A farm vehicle can either have a standard license plate, or an agricultural license plate.
- Digital license plates are permitted to drive in the United States if purchased and registered in one of the following states: California, Arizona, Michigan, and Texas.
Every state has different requirements for issuing temporary license plates (also known as a temporary tag), but commonly required documents include:
- Certificate of Title
- Temporary tag application
- Proof of car insurance
- A valid driver’s license
- Results of inspections or emissions testing, if applicable
- Loan documentation or release, if applicable
Some states require you to show multiple forms of vehicle identification. Typically, one must be a government-issued ID card, while the other can be something like a vehicle registration, bank statement, or utility bill.
A license plate may only be replaced by the vehicle owner, by a member of the owner’s family living at the same address, or by someone the vehicle owner designates through an Appointment of Agent form. The Appointment of Agent form must be notarized, and can be obtained from any motor vehicle office or county tax collector's office. The completed form must be submitted to the county tax collector when ordering replacement license plates or tabs.
Only one appointment can be on file at a time. If an appointment is revoked, the vehicle owner must submit a new form to appoint another agent.
Secure License Plates
Now that you've finally gotten your new license plates, it's time to think about how to keep them secure.
- Get a lockable and decorative license plate frame. This will protect your plate from getting scratched or dented, and it will also deter thieves.
- Use Plate Keeper special screws with a custom removal tool. These screws are designed to be tamper-resistant, so they'll make it more difficult for thieves to steal your plate.
- Install anti-theft self tapping screws. These screws require a special tool to remove, so they'll deter thieves who don't have the right equipment.
Following these tips will help prevent theft.
Is It Possible For My Digital License Plate To Be Stolen?
It’s probably possible for a digital license plate to be stolen, but it’s much more unlikely, due to built-in deterrence factors.
A digital license plate transmits a wireless signal which can be tracked. It is intended to work with the car's computer system, and to communicate with external sources that may access it remotely for vehicle regulatory purposes. When removed illegally from the car to which it belongs, a digital license plate is rendered non-functional by design.
Digital license plates also help track and retrieve a stolen vehicle. You can share the location of your stolen vehicle with police authorities via your app. The digital plate will also display the word "STOLEN," alerting other people to the crime.
What Should I Do If Someone Stole My License Plate Sticker?
What Should I Do If Someone Stole My License Plate Sticker?
If someone stole your license plate sticker, you need to report the theft to the police immediately. You will also need to replace the stolen sticker as soon as possible.
In most states, you can order a replacement sticker online or by mail. You will need to provide your license plate number and proof of identity, and you may have to pay a plate fee. Once you have received your new sticker, be sure to apply it to your license plate as soon as possible.
Taking these steps will help you avoid any penalties for driving without a valid registration sticker.
Is Stealing License Plates a Felony?
It depends on the regulations in your state. In most states, stealing license plates is considered a gateway crime. However, stealing a license plate in Ohio is a felony, carrying a fine of up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison.
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Stolen License Plates FAQ
What do I do if my license plate falls off?
If your license plate falls off, you'll need to replace it as soon as possible. If your plates were lost, you can usually get a new license plate from your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). In some cases, you may be able to order a replacement online or by mail. You'll need to provide your ID information, proof of insurance and registration, as well as a fee.
For a standard replacement, you typically can pick up your new plates as soon as you submit your application and pay the fee. If you had a custom order for a specific configuration like a veteran plate, disabled parking or parking placards, license plate for autonomous vehicles, or plate for recreational vehicles, you may have to wait for your plate to be mailed to you.
Once you receive your new license plate, make sure to attach it securely to your vehicle.
What are the requirements for license reinstatement?
If your driver's license has been suspended or revoked, you may be required to pay a reinstatement fee before it can be reinstated. The amount of the fee will vary depending on the reason for the suspension or revocation.
In some cases, you may also be required to complete a driver's education course or take a written exam before your license can be reinstated.
If you have multiple suspensions or revocations on your record, you may be required to appear before a judge before your license can be reinstated. Depending on the severity of the offenses, your request for reinstatement may be denied.
What do I do if someone stole my license plate in California?
If you find that your license plate has been stolen in California, the first step is to file a police report. You will then need to surrender any remaining license plates in your possession to the DMV.
In California, the cost of changing your license plate can vary depending on the type of license plate you have and the county you live in. For example, if you have a standard license plate, the cost may be as low as $20. However, if you have a personalized license plate, the cost could be as high as $103. In addition, some counties may charge an additional fee for the service. Read our article about California license plate fees for further info.
What to do if my license plate was stolen in Florida?
Losing your license plate can be a frustrating experience. If you live in Florida and your license plate was stolen, there are a few steps you need to take. First, you should contact the police to file a report. Then, you can fill out an Application for a Replacement License plate, Validation Decal Or Parking Permit from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Be sure to include any relevant information, such as your driver's license number and Vehicle Identification Number. Once you have submitted the application, you will be able to obtain new license plates from your local DMV office. Read our article about Florida license plate costs for further details.
Can I drive my car if my license plates have been stolen?
If your license plates have been stolen, you cannot legally drive your car. This is because license plates are required by law in order to operate a vehicle on public roads.
If you are pulled over without license plates, the police may impound your vehicle. In order to avoid these penalties, it is important to replace your license plates as soon as possible. You can obtain replacement plates from your local DMV office. Once you have obtained new license plates, you can then register your car and return to the road.
How do I report a lost license plate in Arkansas?
Losing a license plate can be a frustrating experience. Fortunately, the process for reporting a lost plate in Arkansas is relatively straightforward. You need to contact the Arkansas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and provide some basic information, such as your name, address, and driver's license number.
You’ll then get new AR license plates—and pay the AR license plate fee.
How do I get a replacement license plate in PA?
In Pennsylvania, you can apply for a replacement license plate if your plate is lost, stolen, or damaged. You will need to complete an Application for Replacement License Plate, which is available online or at any PennDOT office.
When completing the application, you will need to provide your name, address, driver's license number, and vehicle information. You will also need to indicate whether you want a standard plate or a specialty plate. Once the application is complete, you will need to submit it along with the required fee.
The fee for a standard plate is $6, and the fee for a specialty plate is $20. After your application is processed, you will receive your new license plate in the mail.
How do I report a lost tag in SC?
If you lose your license plate, you must report it to the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV) within 30 days. You can report it:
- In person. Take your lost tag and a completed Application for Replacement License Plate, Tab or Decal (SCDMV Form 452) to an SCDMV branch.
- By mail. Send your lost tag, a completed Application for Replacement License Plate, Tab or Decal (SCDMV Form 452), and a check or money order for the replacement fee to the address on the form.
The replacement fee is $12. You will receive your replacement license plate in 4 to 6 weeks after it is ordered. If you have questions about replacing a lost license plate, contact the SCDMV.
How to change license plates in NY?
In the state of New York, drivers can replace license plates by mail, online, or in person at a local DMV office.
To change your New York license plate online, you will need to log into your account on the New York DMV website and update your address information, and pay the license plates fee. Once you have completed this process, you will be able to get a new registration certificate that reflects your new address.
“If your plates are not destroyed and someone else uses them, you could be held responsible for any traffic tickets written against the plates and for any fines resulting from the tickets” (dmv.ny.gov).
You could also recycle the plates, or sell them to a scrap metal dealer (after permanently defacing them).
How do I change my license plate in California?
If you move to California or get a new car, you'll need to register it with the California DMV and get a new license plate. You can do this either online or in person at your local DMV office. To register online, you’ll need to provide your driver's license number, vehicle identification number (VIN), and current license plate number. You'll also need to pay the motor vehicle registration fee, which varies depending on the type of vehicle.
If you register in person, you'll need to fill out a registration application and show proof of insurance, as well as your current registration certificate or license plate, license or ID card. You'll also need to pay the registration fee. Once you have a completed application and your vehicle is registered, you'll be issued a new license plate. You can choose a standard plate or a specialty plate, such as one that supports a charitable cause. You may also be able to personalize your license plate for an additional fee.
If you're moving to California or getting a new car, you'll need to renew your vehicle registration with the California DMV. After renewing your registration, you'll be issued a new license plate. If you're moving to California and bringing your car with you, you'll need to register it within 20 days of moving.
How do I change my license plate in Florida?
In the state of Florida, you can change your license plate by going to your local county tax collector's office and bringing in your current registration certificate, proof of insurance, and identification card. You will also need to pay a fee for the new plate.
If you have recently been in an accident and your license plate was damaged, you will need to obtain a new one from the tax collector. You will need to bring your crash reports, as well as the required paperwork and payment, to the tax collector.
If you are changing your plate because it is damaged or lost, you may also need to provide a police report.
Once you have all of the required documents and payment, the tax collector will issue you a new registration certificate with the new plate number.
You can then dispose of the old vehicle tag by turning it into a Tag Agency or by mail.
How To Get A Passenger License Plate
The process for applying for a new passenger license plate will vary depending on your state, but there are some general steps that you will need to follow.
To obtain a passenger license plate on a newly acquired vehicle for a first time, you must make an appointment and bring the following paperwork to your local Department of Motor Vehicles office:
- Filled registration forms
- Proof of paid car insurance and title fees
- Proof of paid sales tax, if applicable
- Vehicle Title (if used vehicle)
- Certificate of origin (if new vehicle)
- Bill of Sale and previous registration (if non titled vehicle)
How to find my license plate number?
The license plate number is a unique identifier that is assigned to your vehicle. You can find it on your license plate on the front or rear of the vehicle.
If your vehicle is not nearby and you need to know the plate number, you can typically find the license plate number on the back of your car registration under “Plate Type.”
You can also look for plate information on your car insurance card, or log into your account with your vehicle insurance provider. Insurance providers usually list the license plate number associated with a policy.
Finally, you can request your license plate number from your local Department of Motor Vehicles office.
How much do license plates cost?
The license plate cost might be included in your registration, or billed separately. Some states allow you to transfer a license plate from your old car to your new one, while others require brand-new plates. For more information on how much license plates cost in your state, you should contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles office.
When Am I Required To Replace a License Plate?
In most states, license plates remain with the owner when they sell a used vehicle. The new owner then registers the vehicle in their name and pays the required fees.
There are a few states in which the license plate stays the vehicle, transferring to the buyer. For more info, see our state-by-state guide on what to do with your plates when selling a car.
In cases where the plate has been damaged, rusted, or rendered illegible it is recommended to replace your plate online or by visiting a local DMV license office. All that is required is a police report, a copy of your real ID card, and a small fee and you should have a new plate issued in no time.
Overall, replacing a license plate is generally a simple process, but it can vary slightly from state to state. Check with your local DMV to be sure on the correct procedure for your state.
How to change the license plate frame?
The process of attaching a license plate to a car with a frame is relatively simple and can be done in a matter of minutes.
- You'll need to make sure that the frame you choose is compatible with your state's regulations. In some states, only certain materials or sizes are allowed.
- You'll need to decide how you want to attach the frame to your plate. Some frames screw into place, while others utilize clips or adhesive pads.
- You'll need to take care when attaching the frame so that you don't damage your license plate.
While the process may vary slightly depending on the make and model of your car, changing a license plate frame is generally a fairly easy task that can be completed in just a few minutes.
For many car enthusiasts, buying a car is just the beginning. They often like to personalize their vehicles with unique license plate frames. While some choose frames that simply accent the look of the car, others use them to express their personality or make a statement.