Can the Police Run Your Plates for No Reason

License plate numbers are issued when a car is registered and no two cars can have the same plate number. They are usually positioned at the front and back of a car so it will be easily accessible by the police.

The police are by law able to run the plates of a car anytime they want for various reasons, they can do so with or without pulling you over, but can the police also run your plates for no reason?

Yes, the police can run your plates for no reason.

Can the Police Run your Plates for No Reason?

Yes, the police can run your plates for no reason, as a matter of fact, it is not against the law for police to run your plates for no reason.

The plate also known as ‘license plate number’ is a vehicle’s registration number assigned at the time of registering the vehicle. Plates are unique to each vehicle; therefore, no two vehicles can have the same.

The police are able to draw up information about a vehicle and its owner by simply running the plates. It is also possible for the police to run your plates for no reason.

When the police run your plate as a result of an offense you committed, it is understandable, but when your plate is being run without a reason, it leaves one asking questions. The police can decide to run your plates for no reason either out of boredom or a way to ruffle your feathers.

Plates are out in the public for everyone to see, just that the police have a means of getting information about the driver and vehicle using the plate number.

Can Cops Legally Run License Plates While Driving?

Yes, cops can legally run license plates while driving irrespective of the state you are in and for any reason.

A cop running your license plates while driving is not an invasion of privacy as it is in public view and can be seen by anyone, it is public information.

A cop can decide to run your license plate for any reason, ideally, it would have been better for you to be stopped and the plates run if you have violated a law, that way, the cop gets to scan the plate and check up for information and past records.

If a cop is running your plates without stopping you, that could be because he intends to mail you the ticket or just out of boredom.

Reasons Police Can Run Your License Plates

The police can run your license plates for various reasons, they are:

1. If You are Driving a Stolen Vehicle

One reason why the police will run your plate is if you are driving a stolen car or one that seems to be close to the description they got for a missing car.

If after running the plates and matching the car, it is realized that the car is legally yours and not stolen, you will be let go, but if it turns out to be actually stolen, you will be penalized for your actions.

2. Expired Registration

It is a violation of law for you to drive a car with an expired registration, although some states give you time to have it renewed, you are expected to renew the registration before the time elapses.

For no reason, the police can decide to pull you over and check your registration, if they find out it is expired, you may be issued a ticket and asked to pay a fine depending on when the registration got expired. The severity of the penalty will depend on how long it has expired.

3. If they are Checking for Stolen Plates

No two vehicles can have or use the same plate numbers as they are specially designed to fit a vehicle description.

The police can run a license plate to check if it truly belongs to the car and if it has changed or used to cover up the car’s involvement in a crime. The plate can also be run if the number looks familiar to the one they have been in search of.

4. Plain Suspicion

Running the license plates of a car could be out of plain suspicion on the police’s part. If by looking at the car, something seems suspicious or out of place, the police can decide to run the license plate to check if their suspicion is right or wrong.

5. If the Car was Used in a Criminal Activity

It is possible that according to the statement of a witness, the license plate or car matches the description of one that was used in a criminal activity such as robbery, if the police, therefore, see a license plate that looks anything like the description given, it is only right they run the plate to check if matches the one in the reported crime.

6. If You are Driving Under the Influence

By merely looking at a person, it may be possible to tell they are under the influence of alcohol. If you are pulled over and the police realize you are drunk, they can run your license plate.

In some states, you may not necessarily look drunk before you get pulled over, the police are authorized to take a breath test for drivers in order to ensure they’ve not been drinking.

If after taking the test, you are convicted, the penalty can be as harsh as your license being suspended.

Is it Legal for Police to Randomly Run Plates?

Yes, it is legal for police to randomly run plates.

The plates are visible for all to see and as a matter of fact, the information on the plates doesn’t really belong to you, it belongs to the DMV.

It is part of the duty of the police to routinely run your plates whether out of suspicion, it was reported stolen, or for no reason.

The numbers and letters on the plates are bold enough and positioned where they can be easily seen for a reason, some will even say it was positioned there for ease of access by the police. There is no state that makes it illegal for the police to randomly run plates.


It is within the law for the police to run your license plate with or without pulling you over if they have a suspicion about your car. It is also possible for your plates to be run if the police do not have anything better to do.