Is It Illegal To Sleep in Your Car?

Man, you wouldn’t believe what just happened to me. I work downtown and I went to Pizza Hut for the buffet. Well you know it is after you eat alot you get tired so I parked on a street by a vacant lot listening to Rush.

Next thing I know I hear a banging on the window and look up to a see a plain clothes detective staring at me. I was going to name this thread a “Rude Awakening” but there already is one that is weird too huh?

Anyway, he ask me what I am doing? You know how hard it was not to SA him on that but I didn’t. I said I was listening to Rush and fell asleep. He wanted to see my license and wasn’t happy that it was just a paper one but I lost mine skiing one day and still haven’t received the picture one yet.

Then he asked what was under my coat(on the front seat beside me). I said nothing and started to lift it(as he kept his hand on his gun) and showed him there was nothing but sunglasses. Then he ask why there were 9mm shells on my floor board and I told him that I was target shooting Sunday and they must just be left over.

Then he asked me if I was aware that drugs are sold in this neiborhood? And I said “no but I am not buying or selling I am just sleeping.” Then he told me that I should find another place to sleep. And being still kind of drousy I didn’t argue and just said ok and I left.

Anyway did he do anything wrong(as far as rights being infringed) and did I do anything wrong for just sleeping there?

Well, once I was arrested for public intoxication while asleep in the back seat of a car. Of course, I had been drinking and I was parked outside of a loud college party.

The point here is that your car is considered a public place, and the police do have the right to bother you, arrest you, etc.

Let me get this straight… You fell asleep listening to Rush Limbaugh???

I was going to say the band but no I can’t lie. Yes, I fell asleep listening to Rush(except it was actually commercials :wink: ). I was tired only slept 3 hours last night not as young as I used to be ya know.

I totally thought you fell asleep listening to “Permanent Waves” or “Signals,” not Limbaugh. Oh well.

I have slept in my car 4 times-- 2 were all night, 2 were power-naps. Once was in Cody, Nebraska, a small town. I pulled in at about ten PM and left a little before sunrise. Once was at a highway rest stop near Lansing, Michigan, from 1 to 7 AM. Once was in western PA from about 2 to 3 AM. Once was at a trailhead at Sequoia National Park in California. I wasn’t bothered at any of them, despite having the obvious appearance of a traveling out-of-towner.

IANAL or a cop, but I always thought it was legal at highway rest stops, unless otherwise posted (“No Overnight Parking.”) I frequently see lines of parked semi-trailers with their parking lights on at those places late at night, and I always assumed they were sleeping and/or resting. I would think that a police officer would rather see me sleeping in my car (as long as I was doing so in a safe place) than see me cause an accident because I fell asleep at the wheel.

In answer to your questions:

Most probably not. A unconcious body in a car parked on a street in a high crime area would most likely be enough probable cause for a police oficer to investigate. He can then use anything he sees, like the ammo on the floorboard) to investigate further. I’m somewhat surprised that the cop did not ask to search you and your vehicle. He most probably would have been able to establish probable cause for that as well. It sounds to me like you got off easy.

Maybe. It depends on local ordinaces. Many cities/counties have laws against loitering or “camping” which can be interpreted broadly enough to cover sleeping in a vehicle, on a park bench, in a doorway, etc.

cobra - Your information is wrong. Your car is most certainly not considered a public place. It is private property. If you choose to operate you car (or sleep in it) in a public place then the police have more leeway in waht they can investigate.

I’m not sure if it is always legal, in Minnesota, at least. When I was in high school, our family took a weekend trip up to Duluth. When we got there, we discovered that you do not take weekend trips to Duluth without prior hotel reservations. We ended up having to drive all the way back to the Twin Cities that night. My father decided to pull into a rest area along the way to take a little nap. If there was a “No Overnight Parking” sign, we didn’t see it–besides, we weren’t planning on sleeping there all night anyway. Only about fifteen minutes later, a cop comes by, sees us all sleeping there, and tells us to move along. My dad didn’t say anything back to the cop, but he was pissed. “That’s what a rest area is for, damn it! To rest!”

On the other hand, my husband, before I married him, was a graveyard shift worker at a cardboard box factory. On the way home, he’d often pull into a supermarket parking lot and nap for a while before continuing on his way. He was never bothered by anyone for doing this.

Personally, I would also rather that people sleep in their cars in safe places than fall asleep at the wheel and cause accidents. Try the supermarket next time, Wildest Bill.

In many states (such as Michigan), if you are sleeping in a vehicle after you have been drinking, you can be arrested for DWI; they don’t even need to see you driving.

Plus, it doesn’t really sound very safe. I mean, the guy said it was a place where drugs were sold, didn’t he?

…and if this doesn’t say it all…

“Okay, officer, I can barely keep my eyes open, but you’re right, I should probably head home…where the hell is the ignition…?”

yes, you can get arrested for sleeping in your car, and dui while the car is not being driven.

i know someone who was arrested and spent what was left of the night in jail for deciding NOT to drive after an office holiday party. the party was at the ceo’s house and he thought it would be better to sleep it off rather than drive. 2 hours later a policeman woke him up, when he explained his decision the policeman told him he could either prove he was at the ceo’s house for a party or go to jail. since he figured waking up the ceo at 4 am would be a bad career move, he choose jail. he, of course got a lawyer and fought the charges. the judge cleared him and stated that he wished more people would follow his example of sleeping in the car, not driving it.

Were they coffins for pets that he made on the graveyard shift?

A few years ago Willie Nelson was arrested because a cop found him asleep in his car, searched the car, and found pot. The police tried to say that the fact that he was asleep in his car was enough to give them probable cause to search the car for drugs, but the judge said it was a bad search and the charges were dropped. I don’t know what would happen if an ordinary person (who couldn’t afford the quality of lawyer that Willie Nelson can) were arrested under those circumstances.

I digress a little here but, being winter, time for an important warning. If you are ever sleeping in your car with the engine running beware. If the wind is blowing straight at your tailpipe your exhaust will be blown under your car and you may die in your sleep from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Usually this falls under a ban on public camping and are municipal oridinances.

Austin’s ban on public camping was recently overturned because it was unfair to the homeless (no big surprise considering it was an attempt to sweep the homeless under the proverbial rug.) IIRC, when the ban was enacted, other cities (Dallas, among others) were touted as having an effective public camping ban, I think because the police were only supposed to ticket or arrest if a homeless person refused to go to a shelter (FWIW, I did a web search, but came up empty.)

In any case, the laws do exist, but the cop probably just thought that you looked suspicious and was using the law as an excuse to check you out.

**Bob Scene **, Are you sure Willie Nelson didn’t get off a grass possession charge with the “Duh! I’m Willie Nelson!” defense?

In Florida you can be arrested for DUI if you are ‘in control of the vehicle’. Which would include sleeping if you had the keys in your immediate possession of the keys. The best thing to do would be to toss the keys onto the PASSENGER floorboard. Or better yet, throw the keys in the glove box and sleep in the back seat. Then, you would only have to worry about tresspassing (depending on where you are sleeping). But you would have to be told to leave FIRST… they could not arrest you until you actually refused to leave. (Unless there is a NO TRESSPASSING sign)

I got off work (I work at a club in Ybor City- look it up- and I am usually freaking wasted after I get off) and when I got to my car, I decided I was too drunk to drive. I tossed the keys on the passenger floorboard and past out. I woke up at like 9am. I still had my earplugs in. It was very cold and pouring down rain. And I had to be at work at The Gun Range in an hour. I had to rush home- shower, change and drive to my other job! I was only a little late!

I know that in PA, throwing the keys on the passenger side floor does nothing for you. You are ‘in control’ of the vehicle if the keys are on or near your person, which means if they are in the car. My alcohol education teacher said your best bet is to put the keys underneath a tire, and then pass out in your car.

As for hassling a sleeping man, it pisses me off, but I can understand. Supposing it was a corpse, the cops would be in a shitload of trouble. So I deal with it, even though many future plans of mine include sleeping out of a car.


Some of them may have ended up serving that purpose, yes.

Wildest Bill writes:

> Then he ask why there were 9mm shells on my floor board
> and I told him that I was target shooting Sunday and they
> must just be left over.

It would probably be a good idea after you go target shooting to take all the ammunition and guns out of the car.

Bear_Nenno writes:

> I got off work (I work at a club in Ybor City- look it up-
> and I am usually freaking wasted after I get off) and
> when I got to my car, I decided I was too drunk to drive.

What kind of a job do you have that you can be drunk at the end of it?

For those who have wondered about what you should do when you come out of a party drunk: Well, it would probably be a good thing to decide beforehand how much you’re going to drink at the party. That way you know if you’re going to need to call a taxi.