US Code

United States Code

Introduction

The U.S.C. is a consolidation, compilation and codification of general and permanent statutes of the U.S. by subject matter. It is divided among 51 title headings, not all currently used. The last one, Title 51 (see below) started on Dec. 18, 2010.

The first edition (which was published in 1926) merely classified statutes and statute sections enacted by Congress beginning with the Revised Statutes of 1878 and extending through session laws published in the Statutes at Large through 1925.

The United States Code is published every 6 years (starting from the two main editions of 1926 and 1934), with cumulative annual supplements in between editions. The last one is from 2012.

The United States Code is, therefore, published slowly and can be months or years out of date. But provide some finding aids:
a) A general subject index.
b) Popular Name Table.
c) Revised Titles Table: shows where laws revised since 1926 are found in current code.
d) Revised Statutes of the United States of 1878: provides current cites for 1878 laws.
e) Statutes at Large Table provides cites to the code or says if repealed or eliminated.
f) Table for Executive Orders, Proclamations, and Reorganization Plans:
indicates where noted in the code, or if eliminated.
g) References in Text provides information on internal cross-references in code.

The Code contain other Tables: Classification Tables (USC/Public Laws), Revised Titles, Executive Orders and Proclamations. There are also some Notes: Statutory (Public Law) source, reviser and amendment notes, cross-references, effective dates, short title, text of related Executive Orders. The American Encyclopedia of Law US Code Portal is available here.

The United States Code and the Statutes at Large

The U.S. Code scope is smaller than the Statutes at Large. The former does not contain private laws or temporary provisions enacted (see more about enactment here), but the Statutes at Large do contain all legal instruments enacted by Congress. Congress has passed 25 titles (1, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 17, 18, 23, 28, 31, 32, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 44, 46, 49, and 51) of the United State Code into positive law, whose language or wording would be governed by the the U.S. Code.

Prima Facie Evidence

The United States Code has never been law, as such. When a title of the Code is enacted into statutory law, the text of the title became legal evidence. For the remaining 25 titles of the Code, the Statutes at Large would still govern. See more about Statutes at Large here. Titles not still enacted are only prima facie evidence of the law.

In other words, Titles subsequently enacted as “positive law” constitute “legal evidence” of laws of the United States where those not enacted as positive law, the Internal Revenue Code among them, constitute prima facie evidence of laws of the United States. When there is controversy over any given section of the United States Code, regardless of title, recourse must be had to the Statutes at Large as publication in the Statutes at Large constitutes “conclusive evidence” of laws of the United States.
Congress has enacted a disclaimer with each title of the United States Code. The Internal Revenue Code disclaimer is at 26 U.S.C. § 7806(b):
“(b) Arrangement and classification. No inference, implication, or presumption of legislative construction shall be drawn or made by reason of the location or grouping of any particular section or provision or portion of this title, nor shall any table of contents, table of cross references, or similar outline, analysis, or descriptive matter relating to the contents of this title be given any legal effect. The preceding sentence also applies to the sidenotes and ancillary tables contained in the various prints of this Act before its enactment into law.”

Official and Unofficial editions

The United States Code (U.S.C) is the official edition of the Code, and the only Code which governs the 25 titles enacted as positive law. It does not provide annotations, or cases decided by courts that interpret or cite the statutes. Because of this, there are also two unofficial or commercial, more complete, versions of the Code:

The above two commercial editions of the (U.S.) Code contain the same that is published in the United States Code, including annotations to case law relevant to statutory law.

All the three editions provide:

  • tables containing parallel references between statutory cites
  • cross-references to earlier revisions and later texts (amendments)
  • presidential documents
  • notes referring to the history of a law after most sections
  • an overall index (usually consisting of several volumes)

The two Annotated Codes offer:

  • Annotations of cases interpreting statutes.
  • References to amendments and legislative history documents.
  • General indexes to the complete code and each title.
  • Updates by annual pocket parts and supplementary volumes.
  • References to C.F.R. rules promulgated.
  • Cross-references to related code sections.

USCA v. USCS

  • While US Code Annotated has more annotations than US Code Service, the latter is selective, avoiding repetitive decisions.
  • While US Code Annotated publishes court rules within the body of the code, US Code Service publishes court rules in separate volumes.
  • While US Code Annotated does not publish uncodified legislation, US Code Service does, in separate volumes.
  • While US Code Annotated follows the text of the U.S. Code, US Code Service follows the text of public laws as they appear in the session laws.
  • While US Code Annotated updates yearly supplements with public laws, US Code Service does this with its “Later Case and Statutory Service.”
  • US Code Annotated has references to West topics and key numbers.
  • US Code Service has a Research Guide with citations to other publications.

Free Online US Codes

To find and research the United States Code online, there are several sites. Among them:

  • Federal Digital System (FDsys) at http://linkon.in/y2uMZC
  • Cornell’s Legal Information Institute (Cornell LII) at http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text
  • Office of the Law Revision Counsel’s United States Code Online (OLRC) at http://uscode.house.gov/browse.xhtml

Although the Office of the Law Revision Counsel site is now the “official” Web site for the USC in internet, only the Office of the Law Revision Counsel’s print version of the United States Code is the “official” document. All the above internet pages use the Office of the Law Revision Counsel’s United States Code Online version of the Code to offer their versions of the Code. Each one is unique in its offering, including its search and updating capabilities, and also dates of coverage (Cornell only offers the 2006 editon). The OLRC site offers the most up-to-date U.S.C., while Cornell is not up-to-date.

FDsys offers several advanced search criteria features of its U.S.C. Collection:

  • Branch
  • Category
  • Citation
  • Disposition
  • Series
  • Short Title
  • Sudoc Class Number
  • Title
  • U.S. Code Amendments
  • U.S. Code Appendix Title
  • U.S. Code Change of Name
  • U.S. Code Chapter Heading
  • U.S. Code Chapter Number
  • U.S. Code Chapter Title
  • U.S. Code Effective Date
  • U.S. Code Future Amendments
  • U.S. Code Part Heading
  • U.S. Code Part Title
  • U.S. Code Section Number
  • U.S. Code Source Credit
  • U.S. Code Title Number

United States Code Titles list

Main contents of the Code can be found in the list of the titles of each U.S. Code volume. There is a “Table of Titles and Chapters” published in the front of each United States Code volume. The reader can further narrow his/her legal research of the topic by chapter/subchapter in this table and then select the volume containing the title researched. All three versions of the Code are arranged in 51 subject titles.

  • Title 1 (of the US Code): General Provisions
  • Title 2 (of the US Code): The Congress
  • Title 3 (of the US Code): The President
  • Title 4 (of the US Code): Flag and Seal, Seat of Government, and the States
  • Title 5 (of the US Code): Government Organization and Employees
  • Title 6 (of the US Code): Domestic Security
  • Title 7 (of the US Code): Agriculture
  • Title 8 (of the US Code): Aliens and Nationality
  • Title 9 (of the US Code): Arbitration
  • Title 10 (of the US Code): Armed Forces
  • Title 11 (of the US Code): Bankruptcy
  • Title 12 (of the US Code): Banks and Banking
  • Title 13 (of the US Code): Census
  • Title 14 (of the US Code): Coast Guard
  • Title 15 (of the US Code): Commerce and Trade
  • Title 16 (of the US Code): Conservation
  • Title 17 (of the US Code): Copyrights
  • Title 18 (of the US Code): Crimes and Criminal Procedure
  • Title 19 (of the US Code): Customs Duties
  • Title 20 (of the US Code): Education
  • Title 21 (of the US Code): Food and Drugs
  • Title 22 (of the US Code): Foreign Relations and Intercourse
  • Title 23 (of the US Code): Highways
  • Title 24 (of the US Code): Hospitals and Asylums
  • Title 25 (of the US Code): Indians
  • Title 26 (of the US Code): Internal Revenue Code
  • Title 27 (of the US Code): Intoxicating Liquors
  • Title 28 (of the US Code): Judiciary and Judicial Procedure
  • Title 29 (of the US Code): Labor
  • Title 30 (of the US Code): Mineral Lands and Mining
  • Title 31 (of the US Code): Money and Finance
  • Title 32 (of the US Code): National Guard
  • Title 33 (of the US Code): Navigation and Navigable Waters
  • Title 35 (of the US Code): Patents
  • Title 36 (of the US Code): Patriotic and National Observances, Ceremonies, Andorganizations
  • Title 37 (of the US Code): Pay and Allowances of the Uniformed Services
  • Title 38 (of the US Code): Veterans’ Benefits
  • Title 39 (of the US Code): Postal Service
  • Title 40 (of the US Code): Public Buildings, Property, and Works
  • Title 41 (of the US Code): Public Contracts
  • Title 42 (of the US Code): The Public Health and Welfare
  • Title 43 (of the US Code): Public Lands
  • Title 44 (of the US Code): Public Printing and Documents
  • Title 45 (of the US Code): Railroads
  • Title 46 (of the US Code): Shipping
  • Title 47 (of the US Code): Telegraphs, Telephones, and Radiotelegraphs
  • Title 48 (of the US Code): Territories and Insular Possessions
  • Title 49 (of the US Code): Transportation
  • Title 50 (of the US Code): War and National Defense
  • Title 51 (of the US Code): National and Commercial Space Programs

Finding Tools

For those readers who prefer to browse through lists of popular names, some finding aids are available:

For the readers who prefer to keyword search popular names, the United States Code Portal and the GPO´s FDsys provide both a Short Title search criteria feature.

Update of the Official USC

According to the book “Internet Legal Research on a Budget” by Carole Levitt and Judy Davis (ABA LPD 2014):

“Although a previous resource known as USCprelim used to provide preliminary release updates, the OLRC no longer provides this resource. The OLRC’s Currency and Updating page (use this URL: http://uscode.house.gov/currency/currency.shtml) now states that “If the section has been affected by any laws enacted after [the currency] date, those laws will appear in a list of ‘Pending Updates.’ If there are no pending updates listed, the section is current as shown.” According to the OLRC United States Code Online’s Currency and Updating page, (http://uscode.house.gov/currency/currency.shtml), …., for example, all Titles in the United States Code Online (http://uscode.house.gov/) are current through Pub. L. 113-31. The currency information on this page is updated as the code is updated. One can also consult the U.S.C. classification tables to be sure of the latest laws that affect the Code.

Near the top-left corner of every section of the OLRC version of the U.S.C. is a date and a statement that the text contains those laws in effect as of the date shown. See the illustration below. If the section has been affected by any laws enacted after that date, those laws will appear in a list of “Pending Updates.” If there are no pending updates listed, the section is current as shown.

When present, the list of pending updates provides the public law numbers of each law affecting the section in some way—either the text of the section, a statutory note set out under the section, or a table of contents preceding the section. Following the list of pending updates is a View Details link that provides more specific information about how each new law has affected the section.”

State Codes

Most U.S. states made public a version of their own codes on their official sites. Some of them, and their code, are listed here:

Statutes and Law (International Approach)

Further Reading

Shepard’s Acts and Cased by Popular Names, Federal and State (1986)

US Code: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about US Code. This part provides references, in relation to US Code, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about US Code by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about US Code and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about US Code or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to US Code and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting US Code. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about US Code should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to US Code when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

*This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

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