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Finding a Statute

How to find a statute, with or without a citation

Citations explained

Citations to statutes of a particular jurisdiction follow a particular pattern. This uniformity of citation helps researchers find the materials they need more quickly. Different jurisdictions, however, do not necessarily follow the same pattern. For instance, citations to federal statutes differ from those to Texas statutes.

Federal Statutes

The United States Code (U.S.C.) is the official version of the codified federal statutes.  There are two unofficial, annotated, versions of the Code that are published by commercial vendors:  United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.) and United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.).  In general, the annotated versions incorporate useful research tools, such as indexes, citations to cases, name tables, etc., and are updated more quickly.  Unless you are verifying or writing official Bluebook-conforming citations for a law review article or other scholarly work, it is recommended that you use the annotated codes.  The USCA is available on Westlaw; the USCS is available on Lexis.

A citation of a federal statute contains four pieces of information:

  1. Title
  2. Source
  3. Section
  4. Date

For example, in the citation for the statute 18 U.S.C. § 115 (2006 & Supp. I 2007),

  1. "18" is the Title of the United States Code. Title 18 covers the topic of Crimes and Criminal Procedure.
  2. "U.S.C." is the abbreviation for the official version of the United States Code. For the unofficial annotated versions, use the same citation system with their abbreviations substituted for the official "U.S.C." abbreviation (e.g., "U.S.C.A.").
  3. "§ 115" is the section of Title 18 in which the text of the relevant statute can be found. Section 115 makes influencing, impediing, or retalitating against a Federal official by threatening or injuring a family member a crime and provides its punishment.
  4. "2006 and Supp. I 2007" indicate the publication date of the United States Code volumes in which the text of the statute was found. "2006" is the date of the official bound volume containing the text of the statute. "Supp. I 2007" indicates the number and date of the supplement that contains amendments to the text of the statute since the 2006 edition of the Code was published.  The commercial editions (USCA and USCS) have their own copyright and publication dates for their bound volumes and pocket parts, which are usually different than the publication dates of the U.S.C. volumes and supplements.

If you are conducting your research with USCA or USCS, you may need to ascertain the location of the statute within the U.S.C. and its supplements in order to write a Bluebook-conforming citation.

Location for the USC, USCA, and USCS: Second floor, Stack 211

Texas Statutes

The elements of a Texas statutory citation are:

  1. Source
  2. Section or article
  3. Publisher
  4. Date

In Texas, you will see two different versions of this same citation pattern. The most common citation will be to the annotated Codes, but another citation will be to the Texas Revised Civil Statutes Annotated. Both citations are current--the Revised Civil Statutes are simply an older arrangement of the Texas statutes.  (For more information on this process, see here.)

For example, for the statute Tex. Rev. Civ. Stat. Ann. art. 178d-1, § 2 (Vernon Supp. 2009):

  1. "Tex. Rev. Civ. Stat. Ann." is the abbreviation for Vernon’s Annotated Revised Civil Statutes of the State of Texas.
  2. "art. 178d-1, § 2" refers to article 178d-1, section 2, of the statute, which deals with the special event parking charge limitations.
  3. "Vernon" is not the current publisher of the Texas statutes; they are published by Thomson West.  Since Vernon was the original publisher of the Texas statutes, they are still commonly referred to as Vernon’s.
  4. "Supp. 2009" is the date of the paper supplement that contains the most current language of the statute.

Another example is Tex. Nat. Res. Code Ann. § 89.043 (Vernon 2001 & Supp. 2009):

  1. "Tex. Nat. Res. Code Ann." is the abbreviation for Vernon’s Texas Codes Annotated-Natural Resources.
  2. "§ 89.043" is the section in the Natural Resource Code that is being cited.
  3. "Vernon" is not the current publisher of the Texas statutes; they are published by Thomson West.  Since Vernon was the original publisher of the Texas statutes, they are still commonly referred to as Vernon’s.
  4. "2001 & Supp. 2009" is the copyright date of the bound volume of the Natural Resources Code and the publication date of the pocket part for that volume. There is language of the statute in both places that is currently in effect.

You may encounter citations to Texas statutes that have been abbreviated to "VTCA" (Vernon’s Texas Codes Annotated) and "VATS" (Vernon’s Annotated Texas Statutes).

Location: KFT 1230.5 V4 - Second floor (Stack 220)

The Texas Statutes are also available online, as well as on Lexis and Westlaw.