What to Do If Your Vehicle License Plate Gets Stolen?

You don’t have plans today. But you need to purchase some clothes for an upcoming trip and want to try out a new restaurant that opened next to the department store. You park your vehicle, lock it up, and go inside.

A couple of hours later, you return to your vehicle and notice that something isn’t right. Something appears to be missing. After a closer inspection, you realize that your license plate is missing.
Like most of us, your immediate thought would be, “Why would someone steal my license plate?”
The fact is, there is no one reason. People often steal license plates because they’re attempting to evade law enforcement because they have a suspended license, no insurance, or are driving a stolen car.

Once you get over the initial disbelief, you need to take action ASAP. This will not only assist in capturing the criminal, but it also protects you. For example, if the individual commits another crime and a witness writes down the license plate number, law enforcement will be knocking on your front door.

So, what should you do? Here are the three immediate steps to take if someone ever steals your vehicle license plate.
  1. Notify the Police and Local County Tax Collector
The absolute first thing you need to do is contact your local law enforcement agency directly or call 911 so that they can direct you to the right department. In fact, do not move your vehicle until an officer arrives to write the official report. Remember, it’s illegal to drive on the road without a license plate on your vehicle.

After you report the theft, law enforcement will record it in the National Crime Database. Officials will then have all of the information they need to catch the criminal. If an officer pulls behind the vehicle with your license plate, they will pull them over.

While waiting for a law enforcement official to arrive, you might also want to call your local county tax collector. Not every state requires this, but it is in certain states, such as Florida, for tax purposes.
  1. Obtain a Police Report
The attending officer should at least give you the police report number and a brief description of the theft. You should also ask for their business card until you receive a copy of the full police report.
You’ll need this information to show another officer if they pull you over for not having a license plate on your vehicle. Your local DMV might also request a copy of the police report when you apply for replacement plates.
  1. Replace Your License Plate at the DMV
Now, it’s time to obtain a new license plate at your local DMV branch. The procedure varies from state to state. In New York, for example, you have to go in-person to replace stolen plates, while some states allow for mail and online vehicle registration to replace stolen plates. If you’re only missing one plate, you must surrender the remaining one at the DMV.

Contact your state’s DMV to find out the exact requirements, but here is what you’ll most likely need to do when replacing your license plate.
  • Complete a DMV license plate replacement application form (In Nevada, this is the Lost, Stolen or Mutilated License Plate Affidavit)
  • Submit a copy of the police report
  • Provide proof of identity and residence
  • Submit payment for the applicable fees (In Texas, the cost is only $7.00)
If you’re financing a vehicle, contact your dealer. and they’ll take care of this for you. 

Final Words of Advice

You can make it more difficult for criminals to steal your license plate by replacing the standard screws with special security screws that are harder to remove. Also, whenever you get a new registration sticker, remove the previous sticker. Over time, these stickers build up, and a thief can easily use a razor blade to remove the stickers.

Finally, write down or record your license plate number. The ideal place is on a memo on your phone. This makes it easier for law enforcement when writing the report. You can also refer to the note to confirm if someone switched their vehicle’s plates with yours.

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