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Sleeping in your car now illegal in one Virginia county -- even in your own driveway

You can nap in your car, but you can’t sleep in it under new ordinance passed this week in Roanoake County, Virginia. Paul Kitagaki Jr. Sacramento Bee photo
You can nap in your car, but you can’t sleep in it under new ordinance passed this week in Roanoake County, Virginia. Paul Kitagaki Jr. Sacramento Bee photo pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Sleeping in your vehicle is now illegal in one western Virginia County, even in your own driveway, according to TV station WSLS and other media outlets in Virginia.

The new ordinance, passed Tuesday in Roanoke County, says anyone caught sleeping in a vehicle could be ticketed for a class 4 misdemeanor, “even on private properties,” WSLS reported.

The maximum fine is $250, according to the ordinance.

“The proposed ordinance would not prohibit napping in an automobile; it would prohibit...using an automobile for sleeping quarters in place of a residence, hotel or other similar accommodations,” a county report on the new law stated.

The ordinance doesn’t spell out the tipping point at which a nap becomes sleeping in one’s vehicle.

County officials say the law is needed to expand an existing ordinance that stops people from “sleeping in recreational vehicles outside of established campgrounds,” according to the Roanoke Times.

Peter Lubeck, Roanoke County’s senior assistant attorney, said in documents submitted at the board meeting that the law was needed to deal with community health concerns “and effects on residential neighborhoods.”

“The use of automobiles as sleeping quarters poses safety risks, particularly during winter months, and can have a negative effect on neighborhood aesthetics,” his report stated.

It’s reported by The The Roanoke Times that supporters of the law showed up at a recent public hearing to complain one of their neighbors was sleeping in a car outside her home, and “using a space heater powered with an extension cord to weather the winter.”

The new ordinance went to effect immediately, according to county records.

An increasing number of cities have passed laws banning sleeping in vehicles since 2011, according to NextCity.org.

Volunteers in small groups headed out on the streets before dawn Thursday to count the number of homeless people in Mecklenburg County during the county's Point-in-Time Count.

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, the LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.


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