Department of Motor Vehicles

Department of Motor Vehicles
Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles on Washington Street in Boston's Chinatown

In the United States of America, a Department of Motor Vehicles (or DMV) is a state-level government agency that administers vehicle registration and driver licensing. Similar departments exist in Canada. The name "DMV" is not used in every state or province, nor are the traditional DMV functions handled by a single agency in every state, but the generic term is universally understood, particularly in the context of driver's license issuance and renewal.


Terminology and organization

Driver licensing and vehicle registration in the United States is handled by the state government in all states but Hawaii, where counties perform DMV functions. In Canada, driver licensing and vehicle registration is handled at the provincial government level.


United States

The Uniform Vehicle Code prefers the name "Department of Motor Vehicles".[1] The acronym "DMV" is most commonly used to describe the agency (where it exists); however, diverse titles are used in different jurisdictions.

State Agency Name(s) Notes
Alabama Alabama Motor Vehicle Division
Alaska Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles Division of the Alaska Department of Administration; previously under the Alaska Department of Public Safety and the Alaska Department of Revenue
Arizona Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division Division of the Arizona Department of Transportation
Arkansas Arkansas Office of Motor Vehicles
California California Department of Motor Vehicles
Colorado Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles Division of the Colorado Department of Revenue
Connecticut Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles
Delaware Delaware Department of Transportation Division of Motor Vehicles
Florida Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles [2]
Georgia Georgia Department of Driver Services [3] (Driver Licenses)

Georgia Department of Revenue, Motor Vehicle Division [4] (Vehicle Registration)

Formerly Georgia Department of Motor Vehicle Safety (DMVS)
Hawaii Hawaii Department of Motor Vehicles [1] Is the only U.S. state where no part of the state government performs DMV functions; it has completely delegated vehicle registration and driver licensing to county governments
Idaho Idaho Division of Motor Vehicles
Illinois Secretary of State of Illinois, Vehicle Services Department and Driver Services Department
Indiana Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles
Iowa Iowa Department of Transportation
Kansas Kansas Division of Motor Vehicles
Kentucky Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Division of Driver Licensing (driver's licenses), Motor Vehicle Licensing System (vehicle registration and tags). The state's Kentucky county clerks are responsible for the administration and issuance of motor vehicle driver's license, vehicle registrations, and titles.
Louisiana Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles
Maine Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles
Maryland Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration Division of the Maryland Department of Transportation
Massachusetts Massachusetts Department of Transportation, Registry of Motor Vehicles Transferred from the Executive Office of Transportation on Nov 1, 2009.
Michigan Michigan Secretary of State
Minnesota Minnesota Department of Public Safety Division of Driver and Vehicle Services
Mississippi Mississippi Department of Motor Vehicles
Missouri Missouri Department of Revenue
Montana Montana Department of Justice Driver Services
Nebraska Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles
Nevada Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles Formerly the Department of Motor Vehicles and Public Safety
New Hampshire New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles Division of the New Hampshire Department of Safety
New Jersey New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission New Jersey has differing titles for the high office holders in this part of government: The head of the New Jersey Department of Transportation is referred to as the "Commissioner," while the head of the MVC/MVS is referred to as the "Chief Administrator."
New Mexico New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division
New York New York State Department of Motor Vehicles
North Carolina North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles Division of the North Carolina Department of Transportation
North Dakota North Dakota Motor Vehicle Division (vehicle registrations), North Dakota Drivers License and Traffic Safety Division (driver licensing)
Ohio Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles [5] Division of the Ohio Department of Public Safety
Oklahoma Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (driver licensing), Oklahoma Tax Commission (vehicle registrations)
Oregon Oregon Department of Transportation Driver and Motor Vehicles Services Division (DMV)[6]
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Driver and Vehicle Services
Rhode Island Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles Division of the Department of Revenue
South Carolina South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles
South Dakota South Dakota Department of Revenue, Motor Vehicle Division
Tennessee Tennessee Department of Revenue, Taxpayer and Vehicle Services Division [7]
Texas Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (vehicle title and registration) and Texas Department of Public Safety, Driver License Division (driver licensing) Vehicle titles and registration were formerly provided by the Texas Department of Transportation. On November 2, 2009, these services were transferred to the new Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV).[8]
Utah Utah Division of Motor Vehicles Utah has a separate department that handles drivers' licenses and identification cards
Vermont Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles Subunit of the state Agency of Transportation
Virginia Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
Washington Washington Department of Licensing Also handles Boat, Business, and Professional licenses[9]
West Virginia West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles Division of the West Virginia Department of Transportation
Wisconsin Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles Division of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation
District of Columbia District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles
American Samoa American Samoa Department of Public Safety
Guam Guam Department of Revenue and Taxation Motor Vehicle Division
Northern Mariana Islands Northern Mariana Islands Department of Public Safety Bureau of Motor Vehicles
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico Driver Services Directorate
United States Virgin Islands United States Virgin Islands Police Department Motor Vehicle Bureau


Province Agency Name(s) Notes
Alberta Service Alberta
British Columbia Insurance Corporation of British Columbia
Manitoba Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation
New Brunswick New Brunswick Department of Public Safety Motor Vehicle Branch
Newfoundland Newfoundland Motor Registration Division
Nova Scotia Nova Scotia Registry of Motor Vehicles
Ontario Ministry of Transportation of Ontario
Québec Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec (English: Quebec Automobile Insurance Corporation) Also performs seizures and inspections of maritime vehicles throughout the province on waterways such as the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Ottawa River.
Prince Edward Island Prince Edward Island Department of Transportation and Public Works Highway Safety Division
Saskatchewan Saskatchewan Government Insurance
Northwest Territories Northwest Territories Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division
Nunavut Government of Nunavut Division of Motor Vehicles
Yukon Territory Yukon Territory Community & Transportation Services Motor Vehicle Department

Organization within the government

Headquarters of the largest DMV of all, the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
A BMV license branch in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Furthermore, there is much diversity in how the Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent) is situated within the structure of a state's government.

Hawaii is the only U.S. state where no part of the state government performs DMV functions; it has completely delegated vehicle registration and driver licensing to county governments.

In Kentucky and Tennessee, the Transportation Cabinet, and the Department of Revenue, Taxpayer Vehicle Services Division, respectively, set the policies and designs for licenses and vehicle registration; but the actual registration and licensing are handled by offices of the county governments.

In the District of Columbia, which is not part of any state, the DMV (formerly the Bureau of Motor Vehicle Services) is part of the city government.

In a few states, there may be a separate department which administers vehicle inspections (which are mandatory in a number of U.S. states with adverse weather conditions which make vehicle maintenance a high priority). In Virginia, the Department of Motor Vehicles handles both driver licensing and vehicle registration, while the Virginia State Police and the Department of Environmental Quality administer safety inspection and emission inspection, respectively. Note that the program is simply administered by the state; actual inspections are performed by specific authorized employees of privately owned gas stations and garages licensed by the state.

In some states, the DMV is not a separate cabinet-level department, but instead is a division or bureau within a larger department. Examples of departments which perform DMV functions include the Department of Justice (Montana), the Department of Public Safety (Texas, Ohio), the Department of [Taxation and] Revenue (Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, and New Mexico), and the Department of Transportation (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Wisconsin). In New Hampshire, the Division of Motor Vehicles is a division of the Department of Safety. In Vermont, the Department of Motor Vehicles is a subunit of the state Agency of Transportation.

Some states do not separate DMV functions into distinct organizational entities at all, but simply bundle them into a laundry list of responsibilities assigned to an existing government agency. For example, in the state of Washington, the Department of Licensing is responsible for driver's licenses, and vehicle and boat registrations in addition to most other business and occupational licensing. In Michigan and Illinois, the Secretary of State's offices perform responsibilities which would be handled by the DMV in other states.

DMVs and the Internal Revenue Service are the government agencies most Americans deal with the most often.

Jurisdiction and exceptions

Almost all long-term residents ("long term" in this case means over 30 days) of a state who wish to operate motor vehicles must possess a driver's license issued by their state DMV, and their vehicles must show license plates (and current registration tags or stickers) issued by that agency.

Armed Forces active duty servicemembers are an exception to this general rule; by Federal law, servicemembers do not change legal residence when relocating to a new duty station unless they take voluntary action to do so. These individuals have the option of retaining the license and vehicle registration of their legal residence or obtaining a new license and registration locally. Some states also let out-of-state college students maintain their existing license and/or registration.

Vehicles owned by the federal government register with the General Services Administration, rather than a state. Drivers of these vehicles must still be licensed with their home state, however.

The Office of Foreign Missions at the U.S. Department of State has a Diplomatic Motor Vehicles program which issues driver's licenses to foreign diplomats and their dependents, registers their vehicles, and issues special diplomatic license plates.

Areas of Responsibility

Driver's licenses and identification

In countries with no national identification card (like the United States), driver's licenses have often become the de facto identification card for many purposes, and DMVs have effectively become the agency responsible for verifying identity in their respective states. See Identity documents in the United States. The REAL ID Act of 2005 is an attempt to provide a national standard for identification cards in the United States.

Driver Certification

In some states, besides conducting the written and hands-on driving tests that are a prerequisite to earning a driver's license, DMVs also regulate private driving schools and their instructors.

Vehicle Registration

DMVs are responsible for providing an identification number for vehicles, either with a permanent vehicle registration plate or temporary tag. See also Vehicle registration plates of the United States. A vehicle registration program tracks detailed vehicle information such as odometer history in order to prevent automobile-related crimes such as odometer fraud.

Many DMVs allow third parties to issue registration materials. These may include companies that specialize in processing registration application paperwork (often called "tag agents") or car dealers. Tag agents are given direct access to DMV systems (as in Louisiana [2]). Dealers often use their state DMV's electronic vehicle registration (EVR) program.

Vehicle Ownership

The certification of ownership of automotive vehicles is handled by each states DMV normally by issuing a vehicle title. The types of vehicles certified by a DMV varies by state. While almost all DMVs title vehicles that are driven on roadways, the responsibility to title boats, mobile homes, and off-road vehicles can be the responsibility of other agencies such as a Department of Natural Resources.

As the issuer of vehicle titles, DMVs are also usually responsible for recording liens made with an automobile as collateral on a secured loan. Several DMVs provide an Electronic Lien and Title program for lienholders.

Law Enforcement

Duties of the DMV include the enforcement of state and federal laws regarding motor vehicles. Many departments have within their ranks sworn law enforcement officers whose purpose it is to enforce DMV regulations which are codified in state law. In North Carolina, for example, the DMV contains an element known as "License and Theft." Stolen motor vehicles are tracked down by "Inspectors," sworn law enforcement officers of the state employed by DMV, and suspected cases of fraudulent registrations, license plates, and/or theft of those elements, are investigated. Inspectors also investigate independent inspection stations licensed by the DMV. At times, some of these stations violate DMV regulations codified by law. The most common of these violations is passing inspection for a vehicle with windows tinted below the legal limits. The penalty for such a violation is a $1000 fine and, for first time offenders, a revocation of the inspection permit for 30 days. Inspection stations face permanent permit revocation for subsequent offenses.[10] In New York, the Division of Field Investigations (DFI) is the criminal investigations arm of the DMV. It employs investigators to combat auto theft, identity theft, and fraudulent document-related crimes that take place in New York. These investigators are armed New York State peace officers with statewide authority to enforce laws and handle investigations.

Compared to standard law enforcement officers, DMV law enforcement agents operate with greater flexibility when it comes to their specific police powers. If a person under investigation by the DMV refuses to answer questions or meet with DMV law enforcement agents, their registration and tags may be canceled. Although a citizen has a constitutional right not to speak or meet with sworn law enforcement officers while under investigation, no constitutional right protects a person's motor vehicle registration with a state agency. Another example of this flexibility of police powers is found in the policies of many states regarding suspected DUI offenders. If a person is stopped by police under suspicion of driving while impaired, and refuses a breath test to determine blood alcohol content, the DMV will automatically revoke that person's license for one year. Even if evidence of that person's impairment is found to be insufficient at trial, the individual loses their driving privileges simply for having refused the sobriety test.[11][12]

Equivalent agencies in other countries


  1. ^ National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances, Uniform Vehicle Code and Model Traffic Ordinance § 2-301(a) (Charlottesville: Michie Company, 1968), 15. Section 2-301(a) is as follows: "A department of the government of this State to be known as the 'department of motor vehicles' is hereby created."
  2. ^ Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
  3. ^ Georgia Department of Driver Services
  4. ^ Georgia Department of Revenue, Motor Vehicle Division
  5. ^ Department of Public Safety - Bureau of Motor Vehicles
  6. ^ Oregon DOT DMV
  7. ^ Department of Revenue, Taxpayer and Vehicle Services Division
  8. ^ "New TxDMV to provide same great service for Texas citizens". Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. October 28, 2009. Retrieved 1 December 2009. 
  9. ^ Washington State list of licenses
  10. ^ "North Carolina DMV Bureau of License and Theft". Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  11. ^ "Refuse Breathalyzer Test After Accident". Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  12. ^ "Florida DUI Law Explained". Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  13. ^ Land Transport New Zealand
  14. ^ 운전면허시험관리단

External links

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