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50-State Surveys of Laws & Regulations: Codes


A code is a subject arrangement of the laws of a jurisdiction.  There are official and unofficial codes.  A code may be annotated (containing editorial enhancements to help with research or interpretation) or unannotated. The advantages of using a code for research include the fact that codes collate original laws with later amendments, they bring all laws on the same subject together, and they eliminate repealed, superseded, or expired laws.

In addition to the statutes, most codes contain constitutions and court rules.

Citation Format


Rule 12 of The Bluebook (19th ed.) covers the citation of statutes.


  • Cite to the official code if at all possible.
  • Title, Chapter, or Volume (see  T. 1)
  • Code (cite to the official code if at all possible)
  • Section
  • Publisher, editor or compiler (unless the code is published by or under the supervision of government officials)
  • Year (on spine or title page if available, otherwise copyright year)
  • Supplements (see Rule 3.1 to cite any material appearing in supplements)


42 U.S.C.§ 1983 (2006).

8 U.S.C. §§ 1187-89 (2006 & Supp. IV 2011).

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.06 (West 2007).

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.06 (LexisNexis 2009).

Citing to Online Codes -- Rule 18.3.2:

The Bluebook requires you to cite to the print version if it is available (see Rule 18).  If citing to a statute that is available on a commercial online service such as Lexis or Westlaw, provide the following:

  • Title, Chapter, or Volume (see  T. 1)
  • Code (cite to the official code if at all possible)
  • Section
  • Publisher, editor or compiler
  • Name of the database
  • Currency of the database


Ohio Rev. Stat. Ann. § 3503.06 (LexisNexis, Lexis Advance through 2013 File 24, 26-37 of the 130th GA).

Ohio Rev. Stat. Ann. § 3503.06 (West, WestlawNext through 2013 Files 24 and 26 to 38 of the 130th GA).


Rule 14 of the ALWD Citation Manual (4th ed.) covers the citations to codes.


  • Elements

A citation to the Federal statutes should include the following:

  • Title number
  • Code Abbreviation (cite to official code where possible - see Appendix 1)
  • Section
  • Publisher (if unofficial)
  • Date


42 U.S.C.§ 1983 (2006).

8 U.S.C. §§ 1187-89 (2006 & Supp. IV 2011).


  • See Appendix 1

Ohio Examples

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.06 (West 2007).

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.06 (LexisNexis 2009).

Online Codes

  • Use regular citation form but add the name of the database provider and currency information

Code Organization

The structure and organization of statutory codes will vary by jurisdiction. 



The United States Code, the subject arrangement of federal statutes, is arranged  by subject  into 51 subject titles, with chapter and section subdivisions.  Of the 51 titles, the following titles have been enacted into positive (statutory) law: 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. When a title of the Code is enacted into positive law, the text of the title becomes legal evidence of the law. Titles that have not been enacted into positive law are only prima facie evidence of the law. In that case, the Statutes at Large still govern.

When looking at a code section, you will see the text of the section, then historical notes, the Statutes at Large citation, and references to related code sections.




In Ohio, the statutes are broadly organized by titles (there are 33) and then further broken down by articles, chapters, and sections.  For more information on Ohio codes, see the Ohio Legal Research Guide. 

Example of a state statute citation:


Some states, such as California, Maryland, New York, and Texas, use subject words for their broader organization.  If you look in Table 1 of the Bluebook under one of those jurisdictions, they will give you the subject break downs.  You actually include those subjects in your citation.

Finding a Code by Citation

Retrieving  a statute by legal citation is the easiest and fastest way to get the specific case to which the citation refers.

Example of a United States Code citation:


  • Suppose our citation was for 42 U.S.C.§ 1983 and I wanted to find this statute in print. I would first find the United States Code, United States Code Service in the Franklin County Law Library print collection. Then I would find the volume containing title 42.  Next I would look for the section 1983 within that volume.
  • To find this statute online:
    • WestlawNext:  type the 42 U.S.C.A. 1983 in the search box at the top of the screen.

A word about retrieving state statutes by citation online:

  • Westlaw can be picky about the format for state statute citations and that format does not necessarily follow Bluebook form.  Your best bet is to begin typing the statute citation.  For example, typing in Ohio Rev. Code § 3503.06 will not directly pull up the statute in Westlaw.  Searching for ORC § 3503.06 will.  Westlaw will pull it up if you type Ohio Revised Code § 3503.06.
  • In Westlaw, putting the state postal abbreviation in front of your section will usually work:  OH St 3503.06.

Where Codes Are Published



Official (unannotated)

  • United States Code
    • The USC is published every six years with cumulative bound supplements issued in between editions. Publication typically runs several years behind.
    • United States Code - FDsys

Unofficial (annotated)

  • United States Code Annotated (USCA)
  • United States Code Service (USCS) -- Lexis
    • Print:  KF 62. L38


See the State Codes & Administrative Regs page of this guide.



  • Baldwin's Ohio Revised Code Annotated - West
    • Print: KFO 30 .A24
  • Page's Ohio Revised Code Annotated - LexisNexis
    • Print: KFO 30 .P3
  • Official version of the Ohio Revised Code from Ohio Legislative Services Commission