What is a VIN and what role does it play during a criminal investigation?  

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stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

VIN stands for "vehicle identification number." Since 1954, every motor vehicle has been assigned a specific VIN, allowing for its identification apart from any other vehicle. Since 1981, the format used by all manufacturers was standardized.

Since VIN records are a part of every vehicle's registration information, sales records, and service records, it is possible to use the VIN to trace any vehicle's history, beginning with the assignment of the number to the vehicle, stamped on an identification plate which is visible through the front windshield.

This makes it possible to trace the most recent owner of any vehicle that might have been involved in a crime through use of the VIN. A record of servicing of the vehicle can be obtained, as well as previous owners and dates when sales or servicing was provided. This can help to establish the preparation that may have taken place before a crime, can be evidence that an individual was in the vicinity of a crime, and may be useful in other ways.