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  • Writer's pictureAlex Maltese

Is It Illegal to Sleep in Your Car in New York?

Many people are familiar with New York rest areas. Based on the rules established by the New York State Thruway Authority and the New York State Department of Transportation, timelines have been established to indicate how welcome centers, scenic overlooks, rest areas, etc., are meant to be used.

For example, commercial vehicles can spend a maximum of 10 hours, while others get a maximum of three. Additionally, no tents or shelters may be erected, as camping is prohibited.

What about the rest of New York, though? Watch repercussions, if any, would come from sleeping in a car?

The idea here is to explore that question to better understand what state and federal law have to say about the matter.

What Prohibitions Are There Against Sleeping in Your Car in New York?

What Prohibitions Are There Against Sleeping in Your Car in New York?

The answer to this question is quite short. No laws exist that would prevent you from sleeping in your vehicle in New York City.

More specifically, assuming no other laws are being broken, nothing would stop you from parking in a public place and taking a nap.

Are There Circumstances That Make Sleeping in Your Car a Problem in New York?

One of the key takeaways from what was said above is the assumption that no other laws are being broken. Consider this example. Is it legal for someone to walk on a public street? Most certainly!

However, should that person be walking with an illegal firearm, for example, there would be some legal repercussions there. The offense would not necessarily be walking on the street, but rather, the position of the illegal firearm.

Similarly, if someone is sleeping in a car under certain circumstances, then an offense would be committed.


The biggest consideration here is DUI or DWI charges. For example, if someone is found to be sleeping in a running car while under the influence of alcohol, such a person could be arrested.

A big part of these kinds of cases is establishing the state of mind of this supposed perpetrator leading up to the Act. Intent to drive is one of the larger factors here.

Even if someone planned to do nothing but sleep in the vehicle, leaving a bar staggering, entering the driver's side of the car, and turning it on are all indications of an intention to drive to the police.

Of course, a case can be made for the defense in the absence of evidence that the vehicle was recently driven, it's difficult to prove an intent to move the vehicle, or it's provable that the car was only turned on to provide warmth.

Illegal Parking

The second consideration is illegal parking. If vehicles are not meant to be parked somewhere, then it becomes a problem when that rule is broken.

Some areas in New York, for example, have explicit “no parking” signs. Being asleep in a parked vehicle near one of the said signs would constitute an offense.

Bear in mind as well that the owners of business places and other properties can choose to legally prohibit parking or even sleeping in a parked vehicle on their premises.


The act of sleeping in a parked vehicle itself is not a problem. There are no federal or state laws that explicitly outlaw this. However, depending on the accompanying circumstances, it may be possible that an offense is being committed.

Drunk drivers, for example, are never supposed to be operating vehicles. If it can be determined that an intoxicated person recently operated a vehicle or planned to do so, then a DUI or DWI charge may apply.

Similarly, should someone illegally park to take a nap, there can be repercussions based on the choice of a parking space.

For legal guidance, contact the car accident lawyers in Long Island NY at The Law Office of Carl Maltese.

Retain the Personal Injury Services of the Law Office of Carl Maltese Today!

Whether you are legally parked and taking a nap in your car or just strolling along the road, the negligence of others can lead to accidents that cause personal injuries. There's no reason your life should be turned upside down financially, physically, mentally, and otherwise because someone else was reckless.

For other important traffic-related questions like if it's illegal to eat while driving in New York or if it's illegal to pass on the right in New York, consult an expert lawyer.

Take advantage of the expertise of the Law Office of Carl Maltese for your personal injury claims. Located in Smithtown, New York, we offer decades of expertise alongside a proven track record of success.

Schedule a free consultation today by calling (631) 857-3703.


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