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Statutory Research

This guide discusses what statutes are; how statutes fit into legal research; how statutes are published; where they can be found online & in print; how to update statutes; how to find 50 state statutory surveys; & the role of uniform/model laws.

What version of the statute is needed?


Pinpoint the timeline of the research problem. If the statute has been amended since the time in question, consider the likely possibility that the prior version --and not the one in the current code--is the relevant one for the problem.

If the statute has been repealed, access a prior version of the code to find the text.  


Imagine that a defendant committed a crime in January. The statute that he is charged with violating was amended in February; the amendment became effective in May. The new version makes it easier to get a conviction and carries heavier penalties. Importantly, the relevant version of the statute is the one that was in effect when the crime was committed in January--not the tougher version that became effective in May and now appears on Lexis or Westlaw. The prosecutor and defense attorney would both need to know how to locate the correct (prior) version.

 Always be aware of the timelines and any amendment history of relevant statutory provisions, including the date on which the amendment became or becomes effective!

Prior versions of U.S. code and state statutory code provisions