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A statute is a law enacted by the legislature, be it federal legislature (the Congress), a state legislature in one of the fifty states (Indiana General Assembly), or some other entity such as a territorial legislature (Guam) or a foreign nation (Japan or France).
In the United States, statutes are enacted one at a time, each one as an individual entity (examples: Public Law 99-1; P.L. 99-2; P.L. 99-3; and so on). For example, P.L. 99-35 would indicate the 35th law enacted by the 99th Congress.) Each individual statute may be divided into many sections (example: sections 101, 102, 103, or 301, 302, 303). A single statute may deal with many related (and sometimes even unrelated) topics.
The reason we say statutes are enacted "as an entity" is that shortly after enactment most statutes are reorganized and each section renumbered in a subject arrangement (code, codification, or compilation). During codification, each statute (originally enacted as a single entity) may be pulled apart into many pieces, each one placed at a different place in the codification or compilation. Thus, a statute will have two principal forms: one where the single law or entity is fresh from enactment; and the other in which the single statute is pulled apart, its sections renumbered, and the sections scattered at a number of places in a subject-arranged set (the code or codification).
The individual federal statutes, in the exact one-piece form as enacted by Congress, are published first in a pamphlet form (called "slip laws") then in the bound volumes of the Statutes-at-Large (called the "official" source because published by the government). To locate a particular statute, you must know the year or Congress number in which it was enacted. Go to the Statutes-at-Large volume(s) that cover(s) that year or Congress. The laws enacted in that year are published in full text in numerical order, P.L.#1; P.L.#2: P.L.#3; and so forth. The individual statutes can also be found, using the same approach, in a commercially-published ("unofficial") set entitled U.S. Code, Congressional, and Administrative News (USCCAN).
You can find the federal statutes, as they appear after codification (in an organized subject arrangement containing all statutes of general application currently in force), in a number of different sets: the U.S. Code (called "official" because it is published by the government), the U.S. Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.), and the U.S. Code Service (U.S.C.S.). The various publishers organize these sets by title-numbers and section-numbers, and the same numbering system is used in all three sets. Note, however, that title-and-section-numbering in the code is a completely different numbering system from Public Law (P.L.) numbering (examples above).
If you go to the index volume(s) of a code, look under any words that seem relevant to your research. If there is a statute on the subject, the index will provide title-number(s) and section-number(s). (Remember, indexes are often supplemented by pocket parts in the back of each volume, and by pamphlet upkeep services shelved adjacent to the set.) Now, in the main portion of the set, find the volume and pages that correspond to your title-number(s) and section-number(s). The statutory law will be set out under the relevant title and section numbers.
If you have a Public Law number, you can trace the public law (section by section) to its location in a code by using the Tables volume(s) that accompany the code. P.L. numbers and section numbers appear in the first two columns of a table and are matched with title & section numbers of a code in third and fourth columns.
An "unannotated" code (example: the U.S. Code) will give you the statutory law and little else. An "annotated" code (examples: U.S.C.A. or U.S.C.S.) will give you not only the statutory language but also short paragraph references to court decisions (called "annotations") in which the courts have applied, interpreted, or otherwise dealt with the statute in question. Thus, most researchers greatly prefer an annotated code over an unannotated code because one finds not only the bare language of the statute but also specific situations (court cases) in which the statutory language is applied and interpreted.
The publication format and search techniques are basically the same for federal and state statutes. The individual statutes, as enacted in one-piece form by the state legislatures, are found in sets of "session laws" published for each of the fifty states (example: the Acts of the General Assembly of Indiana). The library has complete microform holdings for the 49 states other than Indiana.
Each state also has at least one code, and the numbering system differs from state to state. Infrequently, a state may have two or more codes with differing numbering systems. A researcher will usually seek an annotated code, if there is a choice. Again, you may enter through indexes or tables, the same as you did with federal statutes.