Section 1.3.4: Finding Statutes

Fundamentals of Procedural Law by Adam J. McKee

The dawn of the digital era has revolutionized access to official legal codes, often provided online by most states. Many times, these online versions are labeled as “unofficial,” but they contain the same laws you’d find in their official print counterparts.  Finding statutes has never been easier, but you need to use caution.

A significant advantage of this shift to the digital platform is accessibility. Now, students, legal practitioners, and ordinary citizens alike can access state laws from their own homes at any time. However, When you reference these laws in your work, you should cite them as a statute, not a website, as long as a governmental source publishes them. Always remember to consult with your professor about any citation requirements they may have.

It’s essential to bear in mind that online legal codes often lack the editorial footnotes found in professionally edited and published versions. These notes can provide valuable context, insight, and connections to other relevant laws, making the professionally edited versions a richer source for in-depth legal research.

Legal Research Tools for Finding Statutes

Your university library likely provides access to specialized legal research platforms like LexisNexus. These platforms often come with subscription fees that your university covers, probably included in the fees you pay for your education. Therefore, it’s highly recommended that you use these valuable resources for finding statutes.

One of the critical benefits of LexisNexis is its inclusion of Shepard’s Citator. This tool is instrumental for legal researchers as it allows them to understand the history of a particular case or statute and see how it has been interpreted and applied in subsequent cases. It’s an excellent resource for discerning whether a case is still “good law” or has been overturned or criticized in later decisions.

Ensuring Reliable Online Legal Sources

The reliability of online legal sources often comes into question. It’s crucial to use online legal codes published by official governmental sources for your academic purposes. These sources are generally reliable and suitable for reference and citation in your work.

Remember that although online legal codes offer unprecedented accessibility, they often lack the depth and detail found in professionally edited and published versions. Legal practitioners and scholars should not overlook the value of these print resources, especially when conducting more comprehensive research.

Importance of Maximizing Available Resources

The resources available to you through your university, such as access to LexisNexis, should not be underutilized. These platforms offer a wealth of information that can greatly enhance your understanding of legal codes and cases. Always aim to make the most of the resources you have paid for, as they can significantly enrich your academic journey in legal studies.


With the rise of the digital era, official legal codes have become widely accessible online. However, when citing these sources, it’s essential to cite them as a statute rather than a website. Professional legal research platforms like LexisNexis, available through university libraries, offer valuable resources like Shepard’s Citator for understanding legal precedents and finding statutes. While online legal codes provide convenience, professionally edited and published versions still hold great value for their detailed footnotes and in-depth information. Always remember to make the most of your available resources for a comprehensive understanding of procedural law.


Modification History

File Created:  08/07/2018

Last Modified:  06/29/2023

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This work is licensed under an Open Educational Resource-Quality Master Source (OER-QMS) License.

Open Education Resource--Quality Master Source License



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