Is Sleeping in Your Car Illegal in a Parking Lot? Know the Law

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The legality of sleeping in your car in a parking lot depends on a range of factors including local ordinances, state regulations, and the policies of the parking lot owner. Generally, sleeping in a vehicle may be considered loitering or trespassing, particularly if it occurs on private property without the owner’s consent. Local jurisdictions may have specific codes that restrict overnight vehicle use in certain areas, particularly where safety or property rights are concerned.

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General Regulations in Public Parking Lots

Public parking lots, such as those found in retail centers, parks, or municipal areas, typically have their own rules regarding overnight stays and sleeping in vehicles. In many jurisdictions, public parking lots prohibit overnight parking as a means to prevent loitering, vagrancy, and unauthorized use. Signs indicating “No Overnight Parking” or similar language usually indicate that sleeping in a vehicle is not permitted.

Regulations are often based on public safety concerns and the desire to maintain the intended use of the lot. For example, municipal codes in many cities specify that public parking facilities are for temporary use and not for extended stays. Violations of these codes can result in fines, vehicle impoundment, or other penalties.

State-Specific Regulations

State laws concerning sleeping in your car can vary widely. In some states, sleeping in a vehicle in public areas is explicitly prohibited by law.



California Vehicle Code § 21113 prohibits sleeping in a car on state property, including rest areas, unless explicitly permitted. Many cities in California also have local ordinances that prohibit overnight sleeping in public areas.


Oregon allows sleeping in cars at state-owned rest areas for a limited time. However, city and county regulations might restrict overnight parking in other areas.


In Florida, sleeping in a vehicle overnight is generally allowed at designated rest stops. However, many cities, like Miami, prohibit sleeping in vehicles in public places without permission.

New York:

New York has strict regulations, with most public parking lots prohibiting overnight parking. In New York City, sleeping in a car can be considered trespassing or loitering.


Texas allows sleeping in cars at rest areas, but certain cities like Austin and Houston have ordinances against sleeping in public areas or in parking lots overnight.


Washington permits overnight parking and sleeping in cars at state rest areas. However, city regulations, such as those in Seattle, restrict sleeping in vehicles in many public spaces.


Nevada allows overnight parking and sleeping in cars at designated rest areas, but local ordinances in cities like Las Vegas prohibit sleeping in vehicles in many public locations.


Colorado permits overnight parking and sleeping in vehicles in state rest areas. However, local ordinances in places like Denver can restrict overnight parking in public lots.


Arizona allows sleeping in cars at state rest areas, but cities like Phoenix have strict ordinances against sleeping in public places or parking lots overnight.


Illinois has designated rest areas for overnight parking, allowing sleeping in vehicles. However, city ordinances in places like Chicago prohibit overnight parking and sleeping in cars in public areas.

However, other states might have more lenient regulations, allowing sleeping in cars under certain circumstances. In Oregon, for instance, there’s more flexibility, with many state-owned rest areas allowing overnight stays. Nonetheless, these permissions usually come with limitations on duration, location, and intended use.

Understanding these state-specific regulations is crucial, as violations can lead to penalties, fines, or legal action. Local law enforcement and legal counsel should be consulted to ensure compliance with all applicable rules and regulations.

Local Ordinances and Exceptions

Local ordinances refer to laws or regulations established by city or county governments. These ordinances can be more restrictive than state regulations when it comes to sleeping in your car. In many cities, ordinances specifically prohibit overnight parking or sleeping in vehicles in public places. Violating these ordinances can result in fines, vehicle impoundment, or even arrest for trespassing or loitering.

For example, in Los Angeles, California, Municipal Code § 85.02 prohibits sleeping in vehicles in residential areas or near schools and parks between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. This law aims to reduce public safety risks and prevent unauthorized use of public property.

However, some exceptions may exist in local ordinances, often based on specific areas where overnight parking or sleeping in cars is permitted. For instance, some cities may allow overnight parking in designated rest areas or campgrounds. Always check local ordinances and signage to understand specific rules and exceptions in your area.

Safety and Etiquette Tips for Sleeping in Your Car

Safety is paramount when sleeping in your car. To avoid potential risks, follow these safety and etiquette tips:

  1. Park in Designated Areas: Use designated rest areas or campgrounds for overnight stays to avoid trespassing or violating local ordinances.
  2. Lock Your Doors: Ensure your vehicle is locked while sleeping to protect against theft or other risks.
  3. Avoid Blocking Traffic: Park in areas that do not obstruct traffic or emergency access routes.
  4. Minimize Noise and Light: Keep noise levels down and avoid using bright lights to avoid attracting unwanted attention.
  5. Leave No Trace: Clean up any trash or debris from your parking area to maintain cleanliness and avoid fines.
  6. Be Aware of Local Regulations: Familiarize yourself with local laws and ordinances to avoid violating regulations.
  7. Inform Someone of Your Location: Let someone know where you plan to park overnight for safety purposes.

Consequences of Violating Parking Lot Laws

Violating parking lot laws or local ordinances can result in significant consequences. These consequences vary depending on the severity of the violation and the specific laws in your jurisdiction.

  1. Fines: Monetary penalties are the most common consequence for violating parking lot laws. Fines can range from a small fee to substantial amounts depending on the violation and the local ordinance.
  2. Vehicle Impoundment: In some cases, vehicles found in violation of parking laws may be towed and impounded. Impoundment can lead to additional costs for towing and storage fees.
  3. Trespassing or Loitering Charges: If sleeping in your car is prohibited, you could face criminal charges for trespassing or loitering. These charges may result in court appearances and potential legal repercussions.
  4. Legal Actions: Repeated violations or severe cases of parking lot law breaches may lead to legal action, potentially resulting in community service or other penalties.

It’s crucial to understand and comply with local ordinances and parking lot laws to avoid these consequences. If you receive a fine or citation, you have the right to contest it in court or through the proper legal channels. Always seek legal advice if you face severe penalties or charges related to parking lot laws.

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