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  • Writer's pictureBrad Keating

Is It Illegal to Sleep in Your Car in Ohio? | Finding Legal Answers

Updated: Jan 17

There are several reasons why someone might wish to spend the night in their car. Sometimes it's because a person has nowhere else to go for the night. However, some city and state laws prohibit this. What do Ohio state laws have to say about overnight parking and sleeping in your car?

Over the past few years, the number of individuals who spend the night in their cars has risen considerably. As a result, communities are making changes to their existing parking regulations.

These ordinances specify where and how long a person is permitted to park their vehicle. They also detail their legal rights and obligations. The penalties for breaking these laws are clearly outlined in these ordinances.

Several cities ban sleeping in places where the presence of a motor vehicle could potentially cause problems for other motorists and disregarding the rules can exacerbate an already tough situation for many people. Nobody wants to be awakened in the middle of the night by a police officer telling them to move their vehicle.

Need More Information? Keating Law Firm Can Help!

Keating Law Firm is home to a number of experienced and reliable Columbus auto accident attorneys who can help people navigate state and city laws. To find out more about local laws, parking rules, and more, contact Keating Law Firm.

Ohio Laws Concerning Sleeping Overnight in a Motor Vehicle

Ohio Laws Concerning Sleeping Overnight in a Motor Vehicle

It is legal to sleep in your car in designated rest areas in Ohio. There are currently no laws prohibiting drivers from sleeping in their cars. The state encourages motorists to stop at a rest stop to get adequate sleep so that they can continue their journey safely.

Overnight Parking

Parking is permitted overnight in Ohio. There are no restrictions on remaining overnight at a designated Ohio rest stop. Furthermore, there are no parking signs limiting a person's time at rest areas. People are allowed to arrive at rest areas in the evening and stay long enough to continue driving safely. This is because these rest spots are open 24 hours a day.

How Long Are People Allowed to Remain in their Vehicles at Rest Stops?

In Ohio, there is no limit as to how long a person can remain at a rest stop. The State's closest approximation is a three-hour restriction for leaving a car unattended. However, as long as the driver is in the vehicle, they are free to stay at the rest stop for as long as they need to resume their journey safely.

It is important to note that some websites have incorrectly stated that this three-hour parking limit applies to all parking scenarios. This isn't correct. It only pertains to vehicles that have been left unattended. Furthermore, some sites indicate that overnight parking at Ohio rest spots is prohibited, which is also incorrect.

Parking Overnight: Laws in Each State

Those considering moving into an RV or living in their vehicle may be wondering which states allow overnight parking at a designated rest area. Here are overnight parking laws according to state:

  • Alabama - Not permitted

  • Alaska - No specific laws in place

  • Arizona - Permitted, as long as occupants are in the vehicle

  • Arkansas - Permitted only for safety purposes and not for recreation

  • California - No parking overnight permitted, eight-hour limit at rest stops

  • Colorado - Not permitted

  • Connecticut - Not permitted

  • Delaware - No camping or parking overnight, four-hour limit at rest stops

  • Florida - No camping or parking overnight, three-hour limit at rest stops

  • Georgia - Not permitted

  • Hawaii - Not permitted

  • Idaho - 10-hour limit at rest stops, no camping or parking overnight permitted

  • Illinois - No camping or parking overnight, three-hour limit at rest stops

  • Indiana - Not permitted

  • Iowa - Only permitted for one night under special circumstances

  • Kansas - Only allowed for one night only, no camping outside the vehicle

  • Louisiana - Not permitted

  • Maine - Not permitted

  • Maryland - No camping or parking overnight, three-hour limit at rest stops

  • Massachusetts - Not permitted

  • Michigan - No camping or parking overnight, four-hour limit at rest stops

  • Minnesota - No camping or parking overnight, four-hour limit at rest stops

  • Mississippi - Permitted as long as occupants are inside the vehicle

  • Missouri - Permitted as long as occupants are inside the vehicle

  • Montana - Permitted as long as occupants are inside the vehicle

  • Nebraska - No camping or parking overnight, 10-hour limit at rest stops

  • Nevada - Permitted, 24-hour limit

  • New Hampshire - No camping or parking overnight, four-hour limit at rest stops

  • New Jersey - Permitted in some areas

  • New Mexico - Permitted, 24-hour limit

  • New York - No camping or parking overnight, three-hour limit at rest stops

  • North Carolina - No camping or parking overnight, four-hour limit at rest stops

  • North Dakota - Permitted, no camping

  • Ohio - No camping or parking overnight, three-hour limit at rest stops for unattended vehicles

  • Oklahoma - Permitted, no camping

  • Oregon - Permitted at rest stops with a 12-hour limit, no camping outside the vehicle

  • Pennsylvania - No camping or parking overnight, two-hour limit at rest stops

  • Rhode Island - Permitted, no camping

  • South Carolina - Not permitted

  • South Dakota - No camping or parking overnight, four-hour limit at rest stops

  • Texas - Permitted for 24 hours, no camping outside the vehicle

  • Utah - Parking overnight prohibited, except at law enforcement's discretion

  • Vermont - Not permitted

  • Virginia - Not permitted

  • Washington - No camping, 10-hour limit at rest stops

  • West Virginia - Permitted, no camping

  • Wisconsin - Not permitted

  • Wyoming - No camping or extended stays; sleeping in your car is only permitted when doing so for safety reasons

When Is Sleeping in Your Car Illegal in Ohio?

Regardless of the laws in play in a city or state, there may be situations where it is illegal to sleep in your car.

If It Is Prohibited by Local Laws

Anyone who spends the night in their vehicle in a city where sleeping in your car is explicitly prohibited is breaking the law. Drivers are advised to check parking signs at rest stops, car parks, and major thoroughfares to see if extended parking is permitted.

Where Overnight Parking Could Cause a Problem

Overnight parking and local laws governing sleeping in your car range from city to city. Parking overnight on major city roadways, for example, might cause traffic congestion.

When Driving Under the Influence

However, in most states, sleeping in your car while under the influence is prohibited, irrespective of city or state legislation. Several states' DUI laws make it illegal to have control of a car, even if it is stationary.

Anyone under the influence, seated in the driver's seat, with the keys in the ignition, and otherwise capable of driving the vehicle falls into this category. This implies that someone can be charged with a DUI, even if they're just sleeping in their car.

Where Are People Allowed to Sleep in Their Car?

There are several places where people can legally sleep in their cars. These include rest areas, car camping areas, and overnight retailers.

Designated Overnight Parking Areas or Highway Rest Areas

As mentioned previously, it is not illegal to sleep in your car at rest areas and designated parking lots in Ohio. In fact, the state encourages drivers to use these stops to recoup so that they can reach their destination safely.

Truck Stops

Because most truck stops are privately owned, drivers may be able to stay the night provided the owner permits overnight vehicle or RV parking.

24-hour Retailers

Some establishments, such as 24-hour Walmarts, are noted for their hospitality towards overnight guests. However, before spending the night parked at Walmart parking lots, it is important to obtain permission and review the parking laws that the establishment has put in place.

Private Property

Parking overnight in private property is permitted, provided a driver obtains permission from the owner of the property. Drivers are also allowed to sleep in their car on their own private property.


Several campgrounds in Ohio allow drivers to park overnight. However, these establishments often charge a fee for overnight parking, so it won't be free.

What About Sleeping in Other Vehicles?

Car camping isn't the only type of overnight rest stop that people make. Some people live in large vehicles such as RVs, so what laws or parking rules apply to their vehicles?

Parking laws and restrictions to sleeping in a vehicle often apply to all vehicles, including unusual vehicles such as a bus, RV, camper, or van. Drivers should be aware of any special parking requirements for large automobiles in cities and the risks that come with life on the road.

Overnight RV Parking

At truck stops or approved parking lots, RV drivers might be able to sleep in their house on wheels. However, they should be sure to read the parking signs to determine whether it is permitted. Just as car drivers are advised to get car insurance, RV drivers are encouraged to get RV insurance to protect themselves from liability, accidents, and property damage.

Sleeping in a School Bus

Most states allow drivers to park a school bus for free at rest stops and approved parking areas, such as Wal Mart parking lots. It may be difficult to get insurance for a school bus conversion. To obtain insurance, the bus conversion must meet a number of requirements, including living quarters that are similar to those found in RVs.

Van Camping

Those who live in a van may find it easy to locate legal spots to park overnight at campsites, approved parking places, and rest stops are. The type of van determines the car insurance and add-ons a van requires and whether or not the driver requires personal property protection.

A Popup Camper

A popup camper is essentially a camper that is towed. These vehicles can be parked at rest stops and truck stops.

Tips for Staying Safe If You Choose to Sleep in your Car

Tips for Staying Safe If You Choose to Sleep in your Car

Sometimes sleeping in your car is unavoidable. In other cases, it is a preference. Whatever the case, here are a few tips for staying safe when you sleep in your car.

Get Car Insurance

Car insurance is essential for those who live in their vehicles. It can provide much-needed coverage in the event of an accident or theft, compensating drivers for lost or damaged property. Sleeping in your car should not affect your car insurance premiums. However, this may warrant comprehensive cover.

Don't Keep the Engine Running

Drivers are often tempted to leave the car running to make use of the heating or air conditioning system while they slumber. However, this is not recommended. This is because there's a greater chance of something going wrong, such as:

  • The exhaust system becoming clogged or parts failing, which causes carbon monoxide levels to rise. This can be lethal

  • Overheating

  • Greater visibility, which increases the risk of theft

Choose a Parking Space Carefully and Check Parking Signs

If you sleep in your car, it is essential to choose a parking spot carefully. Illegally parked vehicles may be towed, and drivers fined, so it is crucial to check parking signs before parking a vehicle overnight. However, there are also safety implications.

Parking a vehicle in a secluded spot may put occupants at greater risk of theft and other criminal activities, so be sure to choose a parking space that is well-lit and in a safe, monitored location.

Safeguard Belongings

When you sleep in your car, it is important not to leave belongings, such as tech devices, wallets, and keys, in plain sight, as this could tempt passersby to break in and steal.

Need Help with Parking Laws in Ohio? Contact Keating Law Firm Today!

Overnight parking laws can be hard to navigate. If you sleep in your car, you shouldn't make your own rules, as this can have consequences. Instead, drivers should familiarize themselves with the laws in play in their city. Those who need clarity on what their state or city allows can contact Keating Law for more information on this topic and others such as driving barefoot and texting and driving.

Anyone who has been wrongfully detained or punished for parking or sleeping in their car overnight is also advised to contact Keating Law to discuss a way forward. Get in touch with an experienced lawyer by dialing (866) 836-4878 to book a free consultation.


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