You might be desperate to find a spot to park overnight during your travels. However, overnight parking isn’t always legal, especially in urban locations. You may even consider breaking a law or two to get some shut-eye after a long travel day.
Depending on where you are, you might find yourself in serious legal trouble.
Today, we’ll share what you can expect should you get busted illegally parking overnight. Let’s get started!
What Does It Mean to Park Overnight?
Overnight parking is when you park your vehicle in a public place for the night. Many travelers take advantage of public parking spaces to get a few hours of sleep before returning to the road. This can be in parking lots or on the side of city streets.
You can find everyone from car campers to RVers parking overnight. However, some places make it easier than others. Not everyone is as hospitable to travelers and those looking for a place to park for the night.
Can You Legally Park Overnight?
The legalities of parking overnight vary by location. Some areas are more hospitable to overnight parking, while others have strict rules and regulations prohibiting the act. As a result, you need to know them before you get too comfortable.
In addition, it’s considered trespassing to park on private property without permission. This includes empty parking lots and many other areas that would make for a quiet spot to park for the night. You should always get permission from a manager or the property owner before settling in for the night.
Is It Illegal to Sleep in Your Vehicle?
Like overnight parking legalities, rules and regulations regarding sleeping in your vehicle can also vary. There’s no federal law prohibiting a driver from sleeping in their vehicle. However, there are often local rules and regulations that drivers must follow.
Luckily, many places, like interstate rest stops, often allow drivers to park for a certain amount of time to rest. These can be the perfect spots to get a few hours of sleep, especially if you’re on the verge of falling asleep while driving.
When in doubt, pull over and get some sleep. The risks of falling asleep while behind the wheel are too high. You can always explain the situation to law enforcement if it becomes an issue, and they’ll likely send you on your way.
Is Parking Overnight Safe?
In general, overnight parking can be extremely safe, especially if you take some common sense measures when selecting a spot. You should never stay overnight in any area that you feel is sketchy or has a bad vibe. Trust your gut on this one. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not.
Make sure you lock your stuff and park in a well-lit area. Locks will slow down anyone trying to take your belongings, and the lighting can be helpful if you need to investigate any strange noises in the middle of the night. However, many travelers park for the night and rarely have anyone approach or bother them.
The Consequences of Illegally Parking Overnight
Situations where you’re illegally parked overnight typically end in several ways. Let’s look at some consequences you can expect if you’re illegally parking overnight while on the road.
Middle of the Night Knock on the Door
The middle of the night knock on the door or window is every nomad’s nightmare. You never know who’s on the other side of the door or window. However, if it’s the authorities, you better respond promptly. It’s best to peek out the window and investigate the situation.
Unfortunately, if you’re illegally parking, you’re not going to have much of an argument. Getting upset and angry isn’t going to help the situation. In these situations, it’s best to apologize and get on your way.
Heated Discussion with Management or Owner
If you’re caught parking illegally, the management or property owner will likely not be happy to see you. Some people may have more patience with you than others.
You could be in a heated discussion with someone upset you’re on their property. How you handle yourself during the situation could determine whether you escalate or de-escalate the situation.
Unnecessary Interaction with Law Enforcement
Some people want to do all they can to avoid unnecessary interactions with law enforcement. If you’re parking illegally, you’re increasing the chances that you’ll have an interaction. We strongly suggest you avoid breaking the law if you want to limit interactions with police.
Generally, law enforcement will likely send you on your way. However, this is typically on a case-by-case basis. If you want to get on your way, don’t give them a reason to continue investigating the situation. Apologizing for the inconvenience and acting respectfully toward them will go a long way.
Potential Vandalism to Your Property
Sometimes it’s not law enforcement or the property owner that you have to worry about. Sometimes locals don’t take too kindly to outsiders setting up shop in their areas. They may vandalize or steal your unsecured property.
Some vandals may be quieter than others, and you might not notice anything until you leave in the morning. Trust us; this isn’t how you want to start your travel day. Vandalism to your vehicle can be costly. However, if you’re parking in a safe area, you drastically reduce the chances of this happening to you.
You Could Receive a Citation or Fine
Unfortunately, some areas with strict rules and regulations for overnight parking won’t allow you to explain. They’ll simply issue you a citation or fine for illegally parking overnight. Depending on where you are, fines can be $50 to $100.
However, illegally parking in Big Sur, Calif., along the famous Pacific Coast Highway, can cost you as much as $1,000 per night. Unless you have a wad of cash burning a hole in your pocket, we strongly recommend avoiding illegally parking overnight, especially in Big Sur.
Stay Legal When Parking Overnight
Don’t get caught illegally parking overnight. We strongly suggest you take the time to research and get permission before settling in for the night.
You don’t want to find yourself in a predicament where you must leave in the middle of the night. Finding a safe parking spot while you’re half asleep and in your pajamas isn’t going to be a fun experience.
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