Is it Illegal to Sleep in Your Car?

April 7, 2022 Criminal Defense, Drunk Driving/DUI

Have you ever been so exhausted that you needed to pull off the side of the road to take a quick nap? There are many reasons why someone may need to sleep in their car. However, it is important to understand the applicable laws that may apply in this situation and the legal repercussions that may follow before you sleep in your car.

Applicable Laws

The laws that apply will depend upon where you are trying to sleep in your car. There are no applicable federal or state statutes in Florida that address sleeping in your car in public places; you will have to check your local ordinances to see if any additional rules apply to you. To browse municipal codes, you can search using this website.

If you find yourself at a rest area on the highway provided by the Florida Department of Transportation, you are only permitted to sleep in a rest area for three hours.

Some retailers will allow customers to park in their lots overnight; you may want to double-check with the store before you sleep in their lot overnight. One retailer that permits customers to sleep in their parking lot is Walmart. Walmart’s store policy is generally friendly towards overnight RV guests; their policies allow the individual store managers to make the ultimate decision about overnight campers. However, even if your local Walmart will let you sleep in their lot, be sure to check your local county and city ordinances before you sleep there.

Leon County Ordinance

Recently in Leon County, officials decided to not pass Leon County Ordinance 22, an ordinance that sought to regulate homelessness. Specifically, drafters of the proposed ordinance intended to provide a “measured and lawful prohibition against camping or sleeping in public areas in order to preserve and protect the public health, welfare, and safety of the County’s residents and visitors, promote sanitation, and maintain the aesthetics of the County.” If passed, the ordinance could have significantly affected your ability to sleep in your car in Leon County.

To read more about the proposed ordinance and the controversy behind it, read our blog here.

The Keys

Unlike Leon County, Key West has multiple city ordinances prohibiting camping in public. The city has an ordinance against camping in public for the purpose of sleeping. A first warning is given, but after that, you may be arrested and fined for a continued violation of the city’s ordinance. The fine may be up to $500 and carry a 60-day jail sentence. Key West also has an ordinance specifically addressing sleeping in vehicles. The rule states that it is unlawful for anyone to sleep in a vehicle while on a “public street, public parking area, public way, right-of-way, parking lot or other public parking.”

Additional Legal Questions Related to Vehicles


Many people will pull off the road to sleep when they realize that they are too drunk to drive. It is undoubtedly safer to pull off the road than continue to drive while under the influence – however, can you still face legal ramifications for doing so? Maybe. A police officer may approach you in your vehicle while you are sleeping and may arrest you for DUI if you have actual physical control over your vehicle. Actual physical control means that the person in or on the vehicle has the capacity to operate the vehicle. It does not matter if you are not operating the vehicle at the time. For example, if you fall asleep in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition or within your grasp, you may be arrested for DUI and a prosecutor may be able to prove that you were in actual physical control of your vehicle. There are many factors that a court may look at to determine actual physical control. Some of these factors include whether the keys were in the ignition, whether the engine was running, and whether the driver was sitting in the driver’s seat. To learn more about DUI, read our blog here.

Window Tints

Another common question related to vehicles is whether you are permitted to have tinted windows in Florida, and if so, what are the tint regulations? Tint regulations differ depending on whether you are driving a passenger vehicle or a multipurpose passenger vehicle. To read about the specific tint percentages that are permitted,  additional regulations when it comes to side mirrors and colored tints, and special exemptions that allow for special tints, visit our blog here.

Cracked Windshields

Law enforcement officers in Florida are permitted to stop a vehicle that is operating in some sort of unsafe condition – but does a cracked windshield count as an unsafe condition? It depends! The cracked windshield must rise to the level of endangering people or property for an officer to legally pull a driver over. If it doesn’t, and evidence is obtained from the illegal stop, that evidence must be suppressed per the exclusionary rule of the Fourth Amendment. To read more about the law surrounding law enforcement’s ability to detain and inspect vehicles that have conditions causing safety concerns, including a cracked windshield, visit our blog here.

Open Containers

Whether vacationing in Florida for its amusement parks or to relax on its beautiful beaches, one common thing is often involved – alcohol. But if you decide to start the party early by opening an alcoholic beverage in the car, you can find yourself in serious legal trouble. Florida’s open container law prohibits those driving vehicles and the passengers in the vehicle from having immediate access to alcoholic beverages. Both drivers and passengers can face repercussions in the form of a noncriminal moving traffic violation, resulting in monetary fines. Higher penalties will result if your violation resulted in death or injury, including higher fines, jail time, or community service. To read more about Florida’s open container law, the exceptions, and the punishments, visit our blog here.

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one has received a citation for sleeping in their car or are facing charges resulting from a vehicle-related violation, contact a qualified Tallahassee criminal defense attorney.  Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience dealing with all kinds of criminal charges. Call us today at (850) 681 – 7777 or send an online message today to discuss your legal matter during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.

Written by Melissa MacNicol

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