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  • What are "statutes"?

Statutes are what most people call laws. They are binding on persons located within a district governed by the judicial body who creates them. While statutes are presumed to be clear as to their meaning, it is usually necessary to consult court decisions to determine how a particular statute is applied in that area.

  • How are statutes published?

Statutes are published in three different forms: slip laws, session laws and codes. Each form provides advantages for different research needs.

  1. Slip laws are individual copies of laws published as soon as they are enacted.
  2. Session laws are chronological compilations of laws passed during each session the legislative body meets.
  3. Codes are general laws arranged per topic and listed per jurisdiction, at a particular point in time.

CODES are most often cited since they provide the most complete picture of what the law is at a particular time.

  • What are codes?

Codes are arrangements of all the current, general laws in force in a particular jurisdiction, based on individual subjects such as domestic relations law, criminal law and commercial law. They bring together related laws and incorporate amendments into the text of the existing statute. 

The most frequently consulted codes are ANNOTATED codes--these contain text of the current laws but also provide references to cases that interpret the statute.

  • How are codes used?

Codes are used to find the current law in a particular jurisdiction.

The Boston College Law Library has the print versions of the United States Code (on Level 3), the codes of all fifty states (on Level 4), and Canadian codes, both federal and provincial (on Level 4). Visit the Boston College Law Library online at http://www.bc.edu/lawlibrary.

The United States Code is available electronically on LexisNexis and Westlaw.