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Is It Illegal to Sleep in Your Car?

We all know we shouldn’t drive while drowsy. But can you take a nap inside your car? Whether you’re traveling across the country, living in an RV, or just needing a rest, be aware of the rules that come with sleeping in your vehicle.

When Is It Illegal to Sleep in Your Car?

Though there is no federal law against sleeping in your car overnight, there are some situations to avoid. States, cities, and businesses can limit who can stay overnight and for how long. Private businesses and retailers also might ask you to move off their property. So before settling in for the night, make sure to check for the following:

  • Read and obey any posted signs
  • Avoid parking in busy tourist areas (beaches, tourist destinations, etc.)
  • Don’t sleep on city streets or highway shoulders
  • Avoid sleeping in residential areas
  • Only sleep on private property if the owners permit you
  • Don’t sleep in your car while intoxicated. Even if you’re not moving, you might still get arrested.

Why Do States Make It Illegal to Sleep in Your Car?

Because laws change from place to place, it can be difficult to pinpoint all the reasons for a ban. For example, some neighborhoods might want to avoid congested streets. Other areas might express safety or sanitation concerns. However, there are others who worry about how these laws police people with nowhere else to go.

Whether you’re just stopping for the night or living out of your car, you can get into a sticky situation. If you’re parked in a banned area, you can be fined, towed, or even arrested. If you’re staying in the same place for a few days, an officer may consider you to be illegally camped in an area. Intoxication is also a big no-no when parking overnight. A lot of states give out DUIs even if the driver is just sleeping in their vehicle

In What States Is It Illegal to Sleep in Your Car?

While there is no federal ban on sleeping in your car, states can restrict overnight sleeping. For example, a place may allow sleeping in your car for one night but not allow camping for multiple days. For a state guide on sleeping in your car, check out the chart below:

StateSleeping Overnight at Rest StopsLaws on Sleeping in Your Car
AlabamaNoDo not stop on the highway or freeway.
Even if you’re stopped, an officer can charge you if you’re intoxicated.
Some cities have full bans on sleeping in your
vehicle.
AlaskaNot mentionedLaws vary by city.
Don’t stop on public property unless it’s the official parking.
Some cities impose 24 hour parking time limits during the weekday.
ArizonaYes, but no car campingSome cities ban car camping.
You can be arrested for having control of your vehicle while intoxicated.
ArkansasFor safety only, no campingParking laws will change from city to city.
Read signage and look for time limits on parking.
CaliforniaNo, 8-hour limitMany cities ban sleeping in a car unless it’s a
designated area like a campground or overnight parking lot.
Only park on the freeways if it’s an absolute emergency.
ColoradoNoCheck for designated overnight parking lots.
An officer can charge you if you’re sleeping in your vehicle while intoxicated.
ConnecticutNoDon’t stop to sleep on controlled-access highways.
No Parking will change from city to city
Some cities will ban overnight parking or have time limits.
Delaware4-hour time limitParking will change from city to city.
Florida3-hour time limitDon’t stop on highway shoulders, since it can block emergency vehicles.
Some cities or counties have complete bans on
sleeping in your car.
An officer can charge you if you’re intoxicated while stopped in your vehicle.
GeorgiaNoDon’t stop on highway shoulders.
Check signs and local parking laws.
HawaiiNoNo sleeping on a public roadway from 6pm – 6am.
Don’t stop on private property unless you have permission from the owner.
IdahoYes, 10-hour time limitSleeping overnight is allowed for 10 hours on
interstate rest areas and 16 hours on highway rest
areas.
IllinoisNo, 3-hour time limitSleeping in your car overnight is legal, but you’ll
need to look for local parking.
IndianaNoYou can sleep in your car, but it’s best to avoid
staying in one place for more than 5 hours.
IowaOnly for emergenciesCommunity caretaking exceptions allow officers
to approach people who are intoxicated, even if their cars are stopped.
KansasOnly one nightN/A
KentuckyNo, 4-hour time limit for parkingN/A
LouisianaNoN/A
MaineNoN/A
MarylandNo, 3-hour time limitN/A
MassachusettsNoN/A
MichiganNo, 4-hour time limitN/A
MinnesotaNo, 4-hour time limitN/A
MississippiYes, no campingN/A
MissouriYes, no campingN/A
MontanaYes, no campingN/A
NebraskaNo, 10-hour time limit but no overnight parkingN/A
NevadaYes, 24-hour time limit, no campingN/A
New HampshireNo, 4-hour time limit for parkingN/A
New JerseySome stops may allow parking overnight, but no campinigN/A
New MexicoYes, 24-hour time limit, no campingN/A
New YorkNo, 3-hour time limit for parkingN/A
North CarolinaNo, 4-hour time limitN/A
North DakotaYes, no campingN/A
OhioNo, 3-hour time limitSome parts of the Turnpike allow overnight parking for RVs.
OklahomaYes, no campingN/A
OregonYes, 12-hour time limit, no campingN/A
PennyslyvaniaNo, 2-hour time limitN/A
Rhode IslandYes, no campingN/A
South CarolinaNoN/A
South DakotaNo, 4-hour time limitN/A
TennesseeNo, 2-hour time limitN/A
TexasYes, 24-hour time limit, no campingN/A
UtahNo, but police may permit longer staysN/A
VermontNoN/A
VirginiaNoN/A
WashingtonYes, 8-hour time limit, no campingN/A
West VirginiaYes, no campingN/A
WisconsinNoN/A
WyomingOnly in emergencies, no camping or long staysN/A

If you’re traveling, you can check local and state vehicle laws for parking information. Some areas are more lax about enforcement, while others completely ban sleeping in your car. Common ways states restrict overnight parking include:

  • Setting specific timeframes for when you can park
  • Forbidding overnight parking in public areas such as parks, beaches, etc.
  • Ban overnight parking at rest stops

Tips for Sleeping in Your Car

If you do need to sleep in your vehicle, take steps to keep you and your vehicle safe. Keep in well-lit areas if you’re parking in a park, beach, or rest stop. Avoid stopping on private property unless you have permission from the owner. Private property includes commercial buildings, shopping centers, residential parking, and privately owned land.

Though not all rest stops allow you to sleep in your car, there are other options for overnight parking. Free campsites, RV parks, and even trucking stops can give you a safe place to rest. If you just need a couple hours of sleep, try stopping somewhere with 24-hour service, like a Walmart.

With all these things in mind, your safety should be your top priority. Always stop and rest if you feel too tired to drive. Never stop in a place that makes you feel unsafe and ask for help when you need it. If you need to stop for an emergency, call 911, AAA, or your insurer for assistance.

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