Skip to Main Content

Law and Legislation: Federal Statutes

Federal statutes

Congress passes statutes that then become law.

Once a statute becomes law, it will appear in different forms over time, which affects how you are able to find, read, and engage with the content.

Publication process for statutes

  • Slip Laws are the first publication of a newly enacted law, and they are numbered and arranged chronologically
  • At the end of a congressional session, slip laws are bound in chronological order to create a collection of Session Laws
  • General and permanent statutes are then added to the United States Code (U.S.C.) where they are organized by topic instead of chronology
  • We subscribe to the United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.) through Westlaw, which is an unofficial code but contains useful annotations and research notes that direct you to other relevant statutes, case law, regulations, and secondary sources

Finding federal statutes

Slip Laws

You can find slip laws listed on the Public Laws page of Congress's official website.

New statutes will appear within days of becoming law, so this is a good resource for finding brand new statutes.

Session Laws

Session laws are available through the United States Statutes at Large.

This is intended to be a more permanent home for federal statutes but is only compiled at the end of a congressional session. The Statutes at Large can be useful for finding legislation published around the same time or during a particular administration.

United States Code

The United States Code (U.S.C.) is freely available online through multiple sources.

You'll find it organized by topic (titles) with individual chapters and sections that provide the full text of the legislation. When it comes time to cite a federal statute, it is best to cite the U.S.C. since it is the official version of the code.

United States Code Annotated

The United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.) is available to us through Westlaw.

Even though this is an unofficial version of the United States Code, the U.S.C.A is the best place to begin researching statutes that relate to your topic. The annotations will point you to valuable resources that will give you a more complete understanding of how a statute has been cited, challenged, and interpreted.

Additional statute resources