Is It Illegal To Sleep In Your Car In California 2023

Before you take any action in California, you should know the law in the state regarding the action. The reason is California, like many parts of the United States, is sensitive to the law. You could quickly spend a night or two by violating a law you didn’t even know was a law in the state.

As they say, ignorance of the law is not an excuse not to obey the law. So, if you’re wondering if it’s illegal to sleep in your car in California, we’ve got you covered. We’ll explain the Californian law regarding sleeping in your car to you.Is It Illegal To Sleep In Your Car In California

So, the next time you’re too tired to continue on a trip, you’ll be reminded of the law surrounding this context before you decide to take a quick nap in your car in California. Without further ado, let’s dive in already.



The short answer is, it depends. Now, for the extended version, sleeping in your car in California is usually not an illegal thing to do, especially when the car belongs to you.

However, the kind of “sleep” you’re referring to is where things gravitate towards complicated, and here’s why.

If you’re tired or haven’t had a good sleep in a while, you can park your car someplace safe for a quick nap. That’s better than dozing off on the wheels while driving the car.

When it comes to sleeping in your car due to homelessness, that’s where matters get dicey a bit. Generally, State and Federal laws do not concern themselves with whether it’s wrong to sleep in cars. The local authorities usually set Laws like that in a City or County.

Hence, the local laws in each City or County differ regarding the topic of sleeping in your car. While some Cities allow residents and visitors to sleep in their cars for a time limit, others entirely prohibit it- specifically overnight parking.

So, before you decide to park at a rest stop in any City, take the time to read up on the local laws in the City so you won’t get into trouble with the local authorities.

In California, you can sleep in your car. However, you have to be careful about where you park your car to pass the night.

You want to ensure that it’s safe and it’s legal for you to park in the space. In case you’re wondering, we explore some places you can pass the night in your car in the other sections in this article.


If you get into a City in California where the local laws don’t prohibit you from sleeping in your car, take out time to learn the legal and best way to do it.

The reason is local laws that grant people the liberty to sleep in their cars overnight often restrict this freedom to specific locations.

Unless you’re on the run from the cops or you’re a fugitive, here are some places you can legally park overnight to get a good night’s sleep in your car.

For starters, you could pass the night in your car on a private property. However, you have to get the permission of the owner to avoid getting your car towed by the owner or getting reported as a suspicious person that might cause harm.

You could also try out designated parking areas you can stay overnight. Note that not all designated areas permit people to park overnight. But a few good ones do not have any restriction.

But, it’s safe to look out for these designated stops on the official website of the political subdivision you’re at so you don’t get into trouble. More so, check to be sure if you have to pay a few to spend the night. It would help you prepare yourself for the expense ahead.


The first thing you should know about sleeping in your car in California is that it is not a criminal offense. So, when you’re caught you won’t be arrested and thrown into jail instantly with no bail.

Usually, when you get caught sleeping in your car in California by the cops, you’ll be let off with a warning at first. You’ll be considered loitering, after which you’ll be kicked out of the premises.

The police would note your plate number, so they’ll identify you the next time they see you hanging around the same area for prolonged hours. If you’re caught again, you’ll most likely be fined or sued for trespassing. You might also get traffic tickets.


For starters, you can park at a rest stop in California to get good sleep but for as long as 8 hours only. The sad part is, you can’t park at these rest stops at night. Another place you can sleep at is public campsites.

While you might have to pay a fortune to park your car for a night’s sleep, the fee is usually affordable. You can sleep safely in your car at any Walmart parking lot because Walmart is considered private property. So, you won’t get into trouble with the local law if you park overnight at any Walmart parking lot.

However, you might need to get permission from the Walmart branch’s security guard or store manager you plan to spend the night at. Another spot you can safely sleep in is the Bureau of Land Management’s Land in California.

People seeking a place to nest in for outdoor adventures can take their car camping at the Bureau of Land Management’s Land. If you’re looking for a spot to park and sleep in your car, you can park on the land.


There are two major reasons why it’s illegal to park in your car. For starters, local laws that prevent people from sleeping in their cars are erected to achieve a common goal; reduce the number of homeless people in a city.

The Local authorities in a city look forward to seeing more homeowners occupy their cities than homeless people. So, putting laws that prohibit people from parking to sleep in certain cities for prolonged hours or days is one of the tactics deployed by the local authorities to reduce the number of homeless people in a state.

Another reason is the local authorities want to prevent people from camping for too long or permanently nesting in a public spot.


Sleep is an essential part of life, especially if you get behind the wheel. So, if you start to feel sleepy while driving, it’s okay to find a safe space to park for a nap. Just ensure you’re not trespassing or breaking the law.

And if you break the law, you most likely won’t serve jail time. You’d be served traffic tickets or issued a warning. But sleeping in your car in California is not a criminal offense that would ship you off to jail or worse.


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