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Criminal Justice

How to find Federal Laws using citations

There are some common ways statutes are cited in texts. This portion of the guide will help you understand the meaning of the citations when you see them and offer some places to find them.

The United States Code (USC) is the official government publication for the United States code. It is arranged by subject into 50 "titles." New editions are published every six years, with cumulative supplements printed at the end of each session of Congress in between each edition. See list below for online sources to search and browse USC.

The United States Code Annotated (USCA) and the United States Code Service (USCS) are privately published versions of the code, which include cases from the courts interpreting the laws and other additions that are not included in the official code.

Citations will look like this:

42 U.S.C. 13981 (2006)

Title: 42

Code (source) abbreviation: U.S.C.  

Section number: 13981

Year of Code: 2006   

You might also see citations to the Public Laws or Statutes at Large. These are chronological collections of the laws, gathered together and published at the end of each Congressional Session.

Cites will look like this: Pub. L. No. 105-30, 111 Stat. 248 (1997). Public Law  (also abbreviated P.L.) 105-30 was the 30th law passed by the 105th Congress. It was published in volume 111 of the United States Statutes at Large, at page 248.
 

For bills that have been introduced as legislation, but are not yet laws, Thomas and GPO FDSys are good resources.

Citations for bills will look like this:
Equitable Health Care Act, S. 671,  103d Cong., 1st Sess. (1993).

Title of bill: Equitable Health Care Act

Bill or resolution #: S. 671

Number of Congress: 103d Cong

Congressional Session: 1st Sess.

Year: 1993

The process of interpreting a statute, also known as "statutory construction," usually involves researching the Legislative History of the statute, which refers to the process of tracking the statute from proposal as a bill to signing of the legislation into law by the President and examining changes made by amendments, committee hearings, debates, etc. The Library of Congress has a detailed guide to performing Legislative History research for federal law (see below).

How to find Illinois State laws using citations

The Illinois General Assembly web site (link below) provides access to the Illinois Constitution, the Illinois Compiled Statutes (ILCS), recently passed legislation that has not yet been added to the Compiled Statutes through the Public Acts, and proposed legislation (bills), among other resources.

You can browse the Illinois Compiled Statutes by chapter, or search by keyword or Act name.

You might see citations to the Illinois Compiled Statutes that look like the examples below:

810            Ill. Comp. Stat.                § 5/1-101                (2000)

chapter      abbreviated source      section              year volume was published

810              ILCS                               5/1-101                (2000)

Privately published, unofficial versions of the code, called the Illinois Compiled Statutes Annotated, are published by West and LexisNexis. These volumes include summaries of judicial opinions which interpret the code.

Note that some bills that were recently passed into law may not yet be included in the ILCS database, but they can be found on that site as Public Acts soon after they become law. In general, the important thing to remember is that once you find the section of the ILCS you are looking for, you should search again for that section in the Public Acts to see if it has recently been amended.

Citations to public laws of Illinois look like this:

Public Act 096-0001

This indicates the first law passed by the 96th Illinois General Assembly.

The process of interpreting a statute, also known as "statutory construction," usually involves researching the Legislative History of the statute, which refers to the process of tracking the statute from proposal as a bill to signing of the legislation into law by the Governor and examining changes made by amendments, committee hearings, debates, etc. The Illinois General Assembly's Researching Legislative History provides an in depth guide to finding these documents.

Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe also provides access to State Statutes by citation or keyword searching.