How Do You Read a Statute Number?

Statutes are laws passed by legislatures. Citing one generally includes reference to its source, volume number or year of publication, title (usually abbreviated) and page or section number of publication.

Statutes are organized into official codifications, such as the United States Code, which is published every six years with cumulative bound supplements in between. State codes may use different compilations.

Table of Contents


A statute can be identified by its Title and Sections. A title may be long or short and should always be italicized. A title for a statute could consist of words and numbers combined together or include terms like Act, Section or Clause as its main theme.

Citations of statutes must include their Title and Section numbers. In addition, author’s names, legislative body or authority’s details, as well as any pertinent descriptive details necessary for understanding a law must all be provided.

Statutes may include Statutory Notes to provide more explanation, explanatory material and interpretation of their text. Notes are not part of the original act but editorially added into the Code as needed; cross referenced citations within Statutory Notes must be replaced by their proper references from within its underlying statutes.

Some United States Statutes contain provisions not found in any of their base acts, or can contain unique sections not covered by them. Such sections can be identified through source credits in statutory notes for their bases as well as information in Codification or Historical Notes.

State statutes follow a similar organization to Federal statutes in terms of numbering titles and subject categories, much like their federal counterparts. Some states, like California, publish annual volumes while others use continuous session law formats – when citing any statute you will need to provide both its year of publication or session number for reference.


Citing statutes by article (or section) in a law review requires using the most up-to-date, officially sourced version. This requires checking either printed materials such as statute books, or online databases that contain statutes. If amendments were made to an existing statute, check its update dates at its start to make sure you’re using an up-to-date version of it.

If your source provides legislative history or other editorial material, such as notes following the text of a statute, they should also be included as part of your citation. Typically this would be indicated with a note marked “Notes.”

If you need to cite a specific section of a law – for example, state statutes – it’s better to cite its short title than its full name. Short titles typically appear near the beginning or end of statutes and usually begin with “This act may be cited as…”

Law reviews usually feature articles with introductory paragraphs that explain what legal issues they address, making research easier. Many articles also come equipped with tables of contents or indexes to quickly locate relevant sections of the law.

Search the Library’s Code Classification tables to locate both old and current codes of law. Depending on whether it is public or private law, use its public/private law number or sequential citation to find its latest version of a statute enacted during a Congress and where its position within that Congress’ statutory order begins, such as “107 Stat. 25 starting on page 107”.


A section is the component part of a law which can either be divided into subsections or paragraphs, identified with an “SS”. When citing it, its number serves to distinguish it from other components. As well as using the section symbol, it is also crucial that writers verify their citation is accurate and up-to-date. Both the Bluebook and ALWD Guide to Legal Citation advise writers when possible to cite from publicly produced or supervised statutory compilations for each jurisdiction. Citing federal statutes may prove challenging because their laws are spread among multiple print and electronic sources. When this happens, an exact date must be given as the compilation used.

Citations information for slip laws usually includes their public or private law numbers as well as volume and page in the Statutes at Large where it begins, the congress where it was passed (such as Pub L 108-45) as well as any changes it was subject to during publication; in cases of amendments being made midway, an “amendment note” usually provided with each section provides this additional detail.

Many states employ unique codification schemes that organize their laws into topically clustered units and may include subject categories and chapter and section numbers. As well as using The Bluebook references for your state laws, familiarize yourself with its law library and organization of its codes – for example when citing Alaska Statutes it should refer directly to this code rather than using an outdated or irrelevant version of it instead. Doing this will help readers easily determine whether a law still remains in force or has been repealed, while also protecting you against making this mistake!


Statute numbers provide a numeric value that identifies where in the code to find any particular section of law, with sections with higher order being located first. Furthermore, their numeric value also serves to identify individual years within the Code; should any section have been renumbered since publication date then a note in the Code will provide both original section number and any newer one that has been assigned; changes are updated annually with amendment notes to indicate any modifications made during that year.

Some states and Canadian provinces publish their laws in bound volumes that can be referenced using session law number or code name, with dates of enactment enclosed within parentheses and volume/page numbers where statutes can be found. Both The Bluebook and ALWD Guide to Legal Citation suggest using an official code publication; otherwise if using commercially produced statutory compilations then adding publisher name/brand as parenthesis after the citation should suffice.

Most statutes include an explanatory note that provides insight into their purpose or goal. Statutory notes may provide historical, legislative or case law background information as well as interpretative material or legislative intent; additionally they may direct readers towards additional sources of law such as regulations or legislation.

Notes to statutes include amendments regarding names, effective dates and short titles; legislative findings or studies, reporting requirements or legislative study mandates can also be noted in statute. In the US, Office of Law Revision Counsel maintains classification tables listing correspondences between recent session laws and their locations within the Code.

As an example, citing federal law 1701 will also bring up a table listing all other laws once designated as this one, along with their code numbers and page numbers. The Library offers access to current editions of most state codes through Lexis Westlaw HeinOnline as well as older editions on microfilm or print form; to locate specific statutes use either HOLLIS/HeinOnline’s table of links for State Statutes linked from this site or consult one of our reading room books located on the 4th floor.