State DMV Offices
Every state has a branch of government that regulates issues like driver licenses and vehicle registration. This branch is usually called the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), but it can also be named something else that is similar. Each state has its own procedure for registering a vehicle or getting a license, so it's best to check the specific laws and regulations of your state before starting any motor vehicle related processes. FindLaw's State DMV Offices section provides links to the relevant motor vehicle agency in each state as well as links to official agency forms when they are available online.
Registering a Vehicle
One of the main issues regulated by state motor vehicle departments is vehicle registration. Vehicle registrations isn't just applicable to cars, it includes all vehicles such as boats and recreational vehicles. The vehicle registration procedure varies from state to state, but the procedures of each state have some similarities. Generally, vehicle registration requires the payment of a fee and must usually be renewed each year. A vehicle must also be re-registered when ownership of a vehicle changes. Finally, states also require that most cars periodically undergo an emissions or smog test before renewing the car's registration.
Another area that the state motor vehicle department regulates is driver's licenses. This includes both issuing and even suspending driver's licenses in certain circumstances. The requirements for obtaining a driver's license depend on the rules of each state. Generally, each state has a minimum age requirement and also a requirement that the person applying for the license pass a driving test, written test, and vision test. States tend to require people to get a new driver's license if they change their name. But, getting a new license because of a name change typically doesn't require that the driver take any tests.
State motor vehicle departments are also in charge of making sure that drivers are being safe and responsible on the road. Many states employ a driver's license point system to keep track of people's driving records. This point system assigns a point value to each traffic offense, with more serious traffic offenses usually have higher point values. When a person gets too many points within a certain period of time, he or she can have his or her driver's license suspended or revoked. If a person's license is revoked, he or she can usually reapply for a license after a waiting period set by law.