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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

Is It Illegal to Sleep in Your Car in Ohio? | Advice from a Legal Expert

Whether after a night of partying or because of financial constraints, there are many situations where a driver may be forced to sleep in his or her car. However, in some states, it is illegal to do this. This has a lot to do with ensuring the safety of civilians.

However, in Ohio, people are not restricted from sleeping in their vehicles. However, there are designated areas where a person may or may not sleep in their car. This article will provide more information on the topic to ensure that no state and city laws are violated when a driver decides to nap in their vehicle. Automobile accident lawyers in Toledo at Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can provide more insight to this.

Why Would Someone Want to Sleep in Their Car?

Why Would Someone Want to Sleep in Their Car?

Sleeping at designated rest stops can be an attractive option for a number of reasons.

It's a Great Way to Save Money

First, suppose a driver wishes to save money on accommodation when traveling long distances. In that case, they can choose to park their car overnight at a rest area and sleep there rather than pay hundreds of dollars just for an overnight stay at a hotel or lodge. Some choose to rent RVs for this purpose to make their overnight stay in a parking lot more comfortable.

Resting to Avoid Driver Fatigue

In many cases, drivers fail to plan their routes properly and end up feeling tired during their journeys. When this happens, it helps to know that they can simply find a designated rest area and catch up on their sleep instead of having to drive while fatigued.

This can actually help to promote road safety, as it prevents impaired driving and allows drivers to ensure that they are paying attention to their surroundings.


Sadly, in some cases, sleeping in a vehicle is not done out of choice or for road safety. When a person becomes homeless, there may be no other option than sleeping in their car at a rest stop.

A Closer Look at State Law

In Ohio, travelers and citizens are permitted to sleep in their vehicles, provided they are parked in a safe and legal place. There are currently no state laws that prevent people from spending the night at designated rest areas and public parking lots.

Rest Areas Are Open 24/7

Furthermore, there are no parking signs displayed at rest stops that prohibit people from utilizing the parking space to catch up on their sleep. Rest areas are open 24/7, making it a safe place for drivers to stop and rest before continuing their journeys.

Overnight Parking Stops Are Not for Camping

Furthermore, it's important to remember that camping in overnight parking areas is not allowed because it is considered a leisure activity that ought to be done in the woods or mountains, not in a parking lot or rest area designated for automobiles.

Even When Drivers Are Not Breaking Ohio Laws, Law Enforcement May Still Check on Them

It's important to remember that sometimes police officers may approach a vehicle when they notice that the driver's seat has been reclined and there is someone asleep in the car out of sheer concern for their safety.

Local Laws May Differ

If a driver intends to sleep in a parking space during a long journey, it's important that they check local laws, as these may impose stricter restrictions and have their own rules on the areas where people are allowed to sleep in their vehicles. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can assist with other questions like Is texting and driving illegal in Ohio?

Other Areas Where Sleeping in a Vehicle Is Permitted in Ohio

In addition to rest stops, drivers may also choose from the following areas if they need to sleep in their vehicles:

  • Designated truck stops

  • Campgrounds or designated camping spots

  • 24-hour retailers

  • Private property

Again, it's important to check local laws before deciding to park overnight in a particular area.

How Long Are Drivers Allowed to Sleep Their Vehicles at Rest Stops and Parking Lots?

There is no time restriction in Ohio for the duration that a person is allowed to remain in a rest area. The closest estimate provided by the state is a three-hour time limit for leaving a vehicle unattended. However, as long as the driver is present, they are allowed to remain at the rest area for as long as necessary to ensure that they can continue their trip safely.

Are Drivers Allowed to Sleep in Their Cars on Public Streets?

Parking a vehicle overnight on a public street is not permitted, as it could lead to traffic congestion and put the driver's life in danger. If a person is found sleeping in their vehicle on a public roadway, they may face fines or be asked to leave. This is why it's always best to choose highway rest areas instead.

Sleeping in a Vehicle in Public Parking Lots

Another popular place for sleeping overnight in a vehicle is Walmart parking lots. The truth is that camping in these parking areas has been popular amongst people around the country for many years. Fortunately, this is still legal, and as long as people do not cause any problems or break any other laws, they will generally not be bothered by law enforcement.

Can a Driver Take a Nap in Their Vehicle on Private Property?

Another question that often arises is, "Can a person legally sleep in a car on private property?" The answer is yes, provided they have obtained explicit consent from the owner of the property. If they are the owners of the property and choose to sleep in their vehicle, then this is perfectly legal.

Is Sleeping Behind the Wheel While Intoxicated Considered a DUI?

Sleeping in a vehicle after drinking or taking drugs might not be such a good idea.

According to DUI laws in Ohio, drivers are forbidden from operating a motor vehicle when under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Section 4511.01 (HHH) of the Ohio Revised Code describes the term "operation" of a vehicle as the act of causing or having caused the movement of an automobile, trackless trolley, or streetcar.

This means that a police officer does not need to actually have observed the person operating the car while under the influence but can use certain circumstantial evidence to charge them with a DUI.

Circumstantial Evidence That Can Be Used to Prove a DUI

In some cases, a person might be operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and simply turn it off and pretend to be sleeping when they see law enforcement approaching. Fortunately, there are some tell-tale signs that the vehicle had just been running. Here are some of the things a police officer will look at to determine whether a person has, in fact, been driving while under the influence:

  • The car has been pulled over to the side of a major roadway.

  • There is damage to the vehicle, and it is near the scene of an accident.

  • The engine is still running or is warm.

  • Keys can still be seen in the ignition.

  • The person is sleeping in the driver's seat.

This means that if a person falls asleep in the driver's seat with the car's engine running to enjoy the air conditioning or music from the radio, they may be charged with a DUI, even if they did not go anywhere. This is why it is important for those who need to sleep in their vehicles while intoxicated to take certain steps that will make it harder for law enforcement and prosecutors to prove that they were operating the vehicle.

A good idea in such a case would be to sleep in the backseat and remove the keys from the ignition. It's also advisable to avoid turning on the air conditioner or radio while in the car.

Which States Consider It Illegal to Sleep in a Car?

Which States Consider It Illegal to Sleep in a Car?

Unlike Ohio, sleeping in a vehicle is not permitted in some states. When traveling, it's important for drivers to know which states consider it illegal in order to avoid trouble with the law. The following states do not allow sleeping in an automobile:

  • Virginia

  • Nebraska

  • Maryland

  • Colorado

  • Tennessee

  • South Carolina

  • North Carolina

When traveling in these states, drivers must plan their journeys accordingly and book appropriate accommodations to avoid legal penalties.

Need to File a Personal Injury Claim? Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys Are Here to Help!

Sleeping in a vehicle in Ohio is legal, but when a person is injured in a car accident despite following local and state laws, it can put them in an awkward situation financially. Motor vehicle crashes often lead to serious injuries that can have a devastating effect on the lives of those affected.

Although pursuing a personal injury claim won't make up for what was lost, it can certainly help victims get the medical care they need to make a full recovery. They can also help with question like Is it illegal to drive barefoot in Ohio?

Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys have extensive experience working with stubborn car insurance companies and will ensure that the victim's rights are protected.

Those injured in an accident that was not their fault are encouraged to contact the firm for sound legal advice.


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