Maui Discussion

Ask the Mayor: Why Can’t We Use Licence Plates to Access Ownership?

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Hawaii license plate.

Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the most-asked questions submitted to his office staff.

Dear Mayor:

Q: Since we (the public) can look up who owns certain property by a tax key number or address, then why can’t we look up who owns a car by the license plate number?

A: That’s a good question, and the simple answer is, because there’s no federal law which prohibits property tax information from being shared with the general public. State motor vehicle records, however, are another matter.


According to the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act 18, U.S. Code 2721, a “state department of motor vehicles, and any officer, employee or contractor thereof, shall not knowingly disclose or otherwise make available to any person or entity personal information about any individual obtained by the department in connection with a motor vehicle record.” There is more to the law but it is too lengthy to list it here.


If you are interested in reading the entire code pertaining to this issue just go to and do a search for “18 USC 2721.”

Want to Ask the Mayor?

Submit your questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa via email at [email protected], by phone at 270-7855 or by mail to 200 S. High St., 9th Floor, Wailuku, HI 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the Ask the Mayor column.

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