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How to find cases, statutes, regulations, and other law-related material

Introduction to statutes

Statutes are the laws passed by the Congress or state legislature. A statute, also called an act, legislation, or, confusingly, a law, is often a broad statement of principle that is interpreted and applied by case law or implemented through administrative regulations.

Statutes begin as bills and when they pass into law are first published as slip laws or session laws. At the federal level, this version of the law is assigned a Public Law number and published in theStatutes at Large. Eventually, laws are divided and distributed in a collection of laws arranged by subject, like the United States Code or Connecticut General Statutes.

At this point, each section of the original law takes on its own identity, signified by a new number, and may be amended independently of the other sections.

For an in-depth explanation, see How Our Laws Are Made. Connecticut laws follow a similar process.

So which one is THE law?

Well, it depends. Do you want the law as it passed, or the law as it is now?

If you want the law as it initially passed, unchanged by subsequent amendments, then you're looking for the slip or session law.

If you want to know what the law is now, with any amendments made since passage, you're looking for the United States Code or a state code. Be aware that laws are frequently divided into subject areas and distributed throughout the Code.