Can You Be Towed While Sleeping in Your Car

Towing a car is a regular occurrence and it can be done with or without the car owner’s permission and under different circumstances.

Since a car can be towed from the parking lot by the police, or property owner with or without prior notice or warning, is it possible to be towed while sleeping in the car?

A person can be towed while sleeping in the car, however, it is illegal to do so and the towing company can be charged/sued for towing a car with someone in it.

Can You be Towed While Sleeping in your Car?

No, you cannot be towed while sleeping in your car. In fact, towing a car with someone sleeping inside is illegal in most states.

If any tow company is found to have towed a car with someone sleeping inside, they can be charged with kidnapping because the person inside is unaware of the move and will find themselves in a location different from where they were parked.

Therefore, rather than towing a car with someone sleeping inside find another option.

What are the Towing Laws in California?

Like other states, California also its towing laws. These laws are as follows;

The Vehicle Code Section 22651 covers a situation where the police are authorized to tow a car

  • If someone has reported the car stolen
  • If the car is left in a tunnel, on a bridge, or causeway without anybody close to it
  • If the car poses an obstruction to traffic and is left unattended
  • If the car is on the right-of-way freeway for more than 4 hours
  • The car driver is unable to drive the car as a result of illness or injury
  • If the car driver is arrested while operating the car
  • The car is parked in violation of the street cleaning notice
  • No valid registration or driver’s license
  • If the car is parked illegally and is blocking a fire hydrant or private driveway
  • If the car is parked either on the highway or public land with five or more notices and tickets unpaid.

When the police tow your car, it is impounded and you are expected to get it back within 30 days after which the car will be auctioned and you will be unable to get it back. To get your car back, you will need proof that the car belongs to you legally.

When can private property owners tow a vehicle?

According to Section 22658 of the Vehicle Code, private owners can tow a car if any of the following has been done:

  • If the vehicle owner has been giving a notice of parking violation, the vehicle can be towed after 4 days.
  • If there is a No Parking sign. The property owner can tow a vehicle if there is a no parking sign in plain view, at all entrances, and at least 17 inches by 22inches. This sign must also include the contact details of the towing company the property owner uses.
  • If the vehicle cannot be operated because some parts such as the engine, tires, wheels, and transmission are missing. For the property owner to tow the car in this case, they need to notify local law enforcement and wait for at least a day.

 When can a car be towed from the parking lot?

According to Section 22953 of the Vehicle Code, a car can be towed from a parking lot (private) if:

  • The car is close to a fire hydrant (within 15 feet)
  • The car is parked on a residential property
  • The car is obstructing an entrance or exit
  • The car is parked in a space reserved for designated rooms in a hotel or motel
  • The car is parked in a handicapped parking space

What to Do if You are Towed While Sleeping in Your Car?

Here are things to do if you are towed while sleeping in your car:

1. Charge the Tow Company for Kidnapping

It is illegal for tow companies to tow a car with someone sleeping inside whether they are aware or not. If this happens, the person towed can charge the company for kidnapping because in actual fact they did kidnap him.

2. Settle for Not Paying the Tow Fee

You can also decide that rather than involving the police or pressing charges, you will settle with the tow company by getting your car back without paying the tow fee. That will be compensation for getting kidnapped by the tow company.

3. Get Down from the Car

If you wake up and become aware of the situation, you can choose to get down from the car rather than follow the tow truck to the tow premises.

Getting down when the tow truck is being driven may however prove difficult because you will have to devise a means of notifying the tow driver of your intention to get down.

Do You Have to be with your Car to Get it Towed?

Yes, you have to be with your car to get it towed. This however depends on whether you requested the service of the tow company or not.

In a situation where your car is illegally parked, you do not have to be there for it to get towed, the tow company can tow your car without warning or your permission.

If you, however, ask them to come to tow your car, you have to be there in order to provide proof that the car belongs to you.

Can You Ride in a Car Being Towed on a Flatbed?

No, you cannot ride in a car being towed on a flatbed.

In most states, there are laws that state that for you to ride on a tow truck, it must be enclosed right around 350 mm from where the surface where the person is sitting.

Apart from a few exceptions, it is illegal to ride in a car being towed on a flatbed.

When Can you Carry Passengers in a Vehicle that is Being Towed?

Although it is illegal to carry passengers in a vehicle that is being towed, there are times when you can do so. You can carry passengers in a vehicle that is being towed when:

  • The passenger buckles up (use of seat belt)
  • The tow truck is going at a slow speed
  • There is an emergency
  • The tow truck flatbed is enclosed on the sides


If you find yourself in a situation where you got towed while sleeping in a car, you can take legal action against the tow company. You can charge the tow company for kidnapping.