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U.S. (Federal) Laws

Identifies and describes print and online sources of U.S. laws.

About the U.S. Code

The U.S. Code contains the currently in-force federal laws of a general and permanent nature, arranged by subject.

The U.S. Code is arranged into 54 "titles," that is groupings by broad topics. For instance, Title 11 deals with bankruptcy, Title 18 covers crimes and criminal procedure, and Title 38 is on veterans' benefits.

Each title is subdivided into chapters and sub-chapters. The most specific levels are sections. Legal researchers will recognize the § symbol to mean "section."

Citations to sections in the U.S. Code include a title number and a section number (or group of sections): 16 U.S.C.§ 1531. The citation is usually completed by the publication year of the Code. New editions of the official U.S. Code are published every 6 years, with cumulative supplements published between the editions.

Bluebook abbreviation: U.S.C.

Official Version

The GPO site can be a little intimidating, so several other sites provide easier-to-use versions of the same information.

Commercial Annotated Versions

Because publication of new laws in the official U.S. Code is slow, several commercial publishers offer versions of the Code. In addition to being updated more quickly, these commercial versions also contain references to court opinions, law reviews, and other sources.

Indexes & Other Finding Tools

If you don't already have a citation to a title and section number of the U.S. Code, use an index, popular names table, or another source to find the relevant section of the Code.

The Law Library has three printed indexes to the Code located in the Reference Area:

  • official U.S. Code, KF62
  • U.S. Code Annotated, KF62 1927 .W45
  • U.S. Code Service, KF62 1972 .L38

The Popular Name Table feature is organized by phrases generally used as the name of the a law, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This tool provides:

  • the public law number of the law
  • its Statutes at Large citation
  • the title number and section number where the law is found in the U.S. Code

Each of the three publishers of the printed U.S. Code also includes a Popular Name Table in their sets.

Americans with Disabilities Act reference in a Popular Name Table

Historical Editions

Sometimes legal researchers need to see what the language of a law was at a particular point in the past and they turn to prior editions of the U.S. Code for that information.

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