FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND GLOSSARY

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND GLOSSARY




Q:

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What is the United States Code?

The Code is a consolidation and codification by subject matter of the general and permanent laws of the United States.




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How is the United States Code organized?

The Code is divided into smaller units called titles. Each title covers a broad subject matter category, such as title 7, Agriculture, and title 10, Armed Forces. There are 52 titles of the Code. The titles are listed on the Search & Browse page.




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What is the difference between a positive law title and a non-positive law title of the United States Code?

A positive law title is a title of the Code that has been enacted into law as a title of the Code. A non-positive law title is a title of the Code that consists of an editorial arrangement of Federal statutes. See the Positive Law Codification page.




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Does the United States Code contain all the Federal laws?

No. The Code only includes the general and permanent laws of the United States. Temporary laws, such as appropriations acts, and special laws, such as one naming a post office, are not included in the Code.




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How is it decided which laws are included in the United States Code?

Congress determines by law the content of the positive law titles of the Code. The Office of the Law Revision Counsel decides where general and permanent freestanding provisions are placed in the Code. See the About Classification page.




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How current is the United States Code?

For the online versions of the Code, currency information is provided on the Currency and Updating page. Generally, the print version of the Code is updated within six weeks to a year after the end of a session of Congress to include the laws enacted during that session.




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How often is the United States Code updated?

For the most current version of the Code that is provided for searching and browsing on this website, updates are made throughout a congressional session on an ongoing basis as public laws are enacted. For the print version of the Code, each title is updated once a year to include all of the laws enacted during the latest session of Congress.




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How can I tell when a law becomes effective?

Unless otherwise provided by law, an act is effective on its date of enactment. When a Code section or an amendment to a Code section is effective on a date other than its date of enactment, the Code will almost always include an effective date note under the section. See the Detailed Guide to the Code .




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What version of the United States Code is the official version?

The online versions of the Code on this website are produced using the same database that is maintained by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel, from which files are created and transmitted to the Government Printing Office to print volumes of the United States Code. However, it is the printed version of the Code that is recognized under law as evidence of the laws of the United States in all courts, tribunals, and public offices of the United States, the States, and the Territories and possessions of the United States ( 1 U.S.C. 204 ). Several private companies publish both print and online versions of the Code. These versions are unofficial. See the About the Code page.




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Is the text of a law changed when it goes into the United States Code?

The text of the law is not changed in positive law titles. Some technical changes are made in the text of acts that are included in non-positive law titles in order to integrate them into the Code. These changes, which include changes in section designations, headings, and translations, do not change the meaning of the law. See the Detailed Guide to the Code.




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What is the difference between a United States Code section and a statutory note?

Both Code sections and statutory notes are based on provisions of Federal statutes. In the case of a non-positive law title, whether a provision is set out as a Code section or as a statutory note is a classification decision made by the editors of the Code. See the About Classification page. In the case of a positive law title, only Congress can add a section to, or amend a section of, the title, but if Congress enacts a provision the subject of which relates closely to that of an existing section, the editors of the Code may set the provision out as a statutory note under that section. Placement of a provision as a statutory note under a section of either a positive law title or a non-positive law title has no effect on the validity or legal force of the provision; that is, a provision set out as a statutory note has the same validity and legal force as a provision classified as a section of the Code.




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How do I find a particular act in the United States Code?

If you know the popular name of the act, such as the “Social Security Act”, you can use the Popular Names Table to find the public law number or act date and chapter number (for laws enacted before 1957). You can then use that information to find out where the law is classified to the Code using Table III , or for recent laws, the Classification Tables.




Q:

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How do I cite to the United States Code?

Section 204 of title 1 of the Code provides that supplements to the Code may be cited as “U.S.C., Sup. ____ ”, with the blank being filled with Roman figures denoting the number of the supplement and new editions of the Code may be cited as “U.S.C., ____ ed.” with the blank being filled in with figures denoting the last year the legislation of which is included in whole or in part. Additional guidance about citing the Code may be found in various citation handbooks.




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What is positive law codification?

Positive law codification by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel is the process of preparing and enacting codification bills to restate existing law as positive law titles of the United States Code. See the Positive Law Codification page.




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Why does it take so long to enact a positive law title of the United States Code?

The preparation of a codification bill is an exacting process. Unlike the authors of other bills in Congress, authors of a codification bill are not free to put into the bill provisions that reflect the particular policy choices of any Member of Congress or any other person. Instead, the codification attorneys must be scrupulous in ensuring that any changes in the form of the law that the codification bill may propose do not change the meaning or effect of the existing law that is restated in the codification bill. Any significant change in the form that is intended to improve the law (see Importance of Positive Law Codification on the Positive Law Codification page) must be documented in tables and notes in the report accompanying the codification bill. The codification attorneys must obtain a consensus among all interested persons that the codification bill does what it is supposed to do and nothing more. If it is not possible to obtain that consensus by the end of the Congress in which a codification bill is first introduced, a new, updated codification bill must be prepared for introduction in the next Congress. The process is inherently time-consuming.




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How do I link directly to a section of the Code?

To create a link directly to a section, build it as follows:

http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=granuleid:USC-'year'-title'title-num'-section'section-num'&num=0&edition='year'

Substitute 'title-num' and 'section-num' with the title and section required, and 'year' with either 'prelim' or a previous year for which the data is available.

Some examples:

http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=granuleid:USC-prelim-title2-section60j-1&num=0&edition=prelim

http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=granuleid:USC-2010-title2-section60j-1&num=0&edition=2010


To link to structure within the statutory material of a section add after '&edition=prelim'

"#substructure-location_'item-you-want-to-link-to'

Where the 'item-you-want-to-link-to' is the substructure enumerator(s) seperated by the character '_'.

Substructure examples:

http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=granuleid:USC-prelim-title26-section1402&num=0&edition=prelim#substructure-location_b

http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=granuleid:USC-prelim-title2-section1384&num=0&edition=prelim#substructure-location_c

http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=granuleid:USC-prelim-title2-section4712&num=0&edition=prelim#substructure-location_b_4

Please note that substructure linking works only in the most current version of the United States Code and does not work in prior publications.




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Can the Office of the Law Revision Counsel answer my legal questions or provide me with legal advice?

No. The Office of the Law Revision Counsel prepares and publishes the United States Code but cannot answer questions or provide legal advice to members of the public about the meaning or application of the laws in the Code.




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I have a comment about a law in the United States Code or about pending legislation. Should I send it to the Office of the Law Revision Counsel?

Comments about codification bills prepared by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel are encouraged. See the Positive Law Codification page. Comments about any other legislation or existing laws should be sent to your representatives in the House and Senate or to the House committees or Senate committees that have jurisdiction over the matters you wish to comment on. The Office of the Law Revision Counsel is not involved in the development of substantive legislation or policies.




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What should I do if I find an error in the United States Code?

Please advise the Law Revision Counsel of any possible errors in the Code by sending an email to uscode@mail.house.gov.





GLOSSARY OF TERMS USED ON THIS WEBSITE OR IN THE UNITED STATES CODE


Act

“Act” is used to refer to a bill or joint resolution that has passed both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate and has been signed into law by the President, or passed over his veto, thus becoming a law.


Amended generally

“Amended generally” is used in amendment notes to indicate that the provision was amended “to read as follows . . .”


Amendment note

An amendment note is an editorial note explaining how an act amended a Code section.


Analysis

An analysis is a table of contents of a unit of the Code, such as a subtitle or chapter.


Appendix

An appendix is the material that follows titles 5, 11, 18, 28, and 50 of the Code. The appendices contain Federal court rules and certain acts that relate to the subject matter of the title to which they are attached. See the Detailed Guide to the Code .


Catchline

A catchline is the heading of a Code section.


Classified generally

“Classified generally” is used in references in text notes to indicate that an entire act or unit of an act is classified to a chapter or other unit of the Code, with possible minor exceptions, such as a short title or effective date provision.


Classified principally

“Classified principally” is used in references in text notes to indicate that the major part of an act or unit of an act, especially the freestanding provisions, is classified to a chapter or other unit of the Code. However, some freestanding provisions and some amendments may be classified to other parts of the Code.


Classification

Classification is the process of deciding which laws are included in the Code and where they are to be placed. See the About Classification page.


Classification Tables

The Classification Tables are tables that show where recently enacted laws will appear in the Code and which sections of the Code have been amended by those laws. The tables are available in Public Law or Code order. See the Classification Tables . See also the entry for Table III below.


Concluding provision

In a Code section, a concluding provision is the undesignated text that follows a series of designated units, such as paragraphs. For example, 11 U.S.C. 345(b) contains paragraphs (1) and (2) followed by the concluding provision that reads: “unless the court for cause orders otherwise.”


Credit

See source credit.


Designation

A designation is the number, letter, or number/letter combination that identifies a unit, such as a chapter, section, or subsection, in the Code. For example, the designation for the first section in title 51 is section “10101”.


Editorial note

An editorial note is a note appearing in the Code that was prepared by the editors of the Code. It is distinguished from a statutory note, which is based on a provision of law. See the Detailed Guide to the Code.


Effective Date note

An effective date note is a note that relates to the effective date of a provision of an act. It can be either a statutory note if it sets out a provision of law or an editorial note if it paraphrases or refers to a statutory effective date note.


Freestanding provision

A freestanding provision is a provision of an act that is not an amendment to or repeal of existing law.


Introductory provision

In a Code section, an introductory provision is the text that precedes a series of subordinate designated units, such as paragraphs or subparagraphs, and usually links up logically with each unit. For example, 11 U.S.C. 101 begins with an introductory provision that reads: “In this title the following definitions shall apply:”, followed by paragraphs (1), (2), etc., that define a series of terms.


Notes

The textual material set out following a Code section and its credit or preceding a Code section. There are two basic types of notes: statutory notes and editorial notes.


Omitted

“Omitted” is used to indicate that statutory text has been deleted for a reason other than that it was repealed. When “omitted” is used in a section catchline, it indicates that the section has been deleted because it was amended out of existence or because it is obsolete, terminated, or expired. When “omitted” is used for a unit of a section or of a statutory note, it indicates that the unit has been deleted because it amended another provision or because it is obsolete, terminated, or expired. Information about omitted material in a section can usually be found in a Codification note under that section.


Popular name

A “popular name” of an act, unit of an act, or unit of the Code is a name that is attached to the act or unit through common usage. It is distinguished from an official short title which is prescribed as the name of an act or unit by law.


Positive law title

A positive law title is a title that has been enacted into law as a title of the Code. See the Positive Law Codification page.


Public law

A public law is an act of general application (unlike a private law). Public laws are designated by the Congress number and the number of the law for that Congress (e.g., Pub. L. 111-314 is the 314th law of the 111th Congress).


References in Text note

A References in Text note is an editorial note that explains, clarifies, or corrects a reference within the text of a Code section.


See Tables (for classification)

“See Tables” in an editorial note or bracket directs the reader to consult Table III and the Classification Tables to determine where a particular act has been incorporated into the Code.


Short Title note

A Short Title note is a note that relates to the name of an act, unit of an act, or unit of the Code. It can be either a statutory note if it sets out a provision of law or an editorial note if it paraphrases or refers to a statutory note or relates to a popular name.


So in original

“So in original” in a footnote means that the footnoted words or punctuation are set out in the Code exactly as they appear in the original act.


Source credits

A source credit is the series of citations immediately following the text of a section or preceding the text of a statutory note that identifies all of the acts that enacted, amended, or otherwise affected the section or note. See the Detailed Guide to the Code .


Statutes at Large

The Statutes at Large is the official publication of the laws enacted during each session of Congress. See http://www.gpoaccess.gov/statutes/about.html. “Stat.” is used in a source credit or other Code reference to indicate a Statutes at Large volume and page number.


Statutory note

A statutory note is a provision of law set out as a note following a Code section (or in some cases preceding the first section of a chapter). See the Detailed Guide to the Code .


Table III

Table III is a Code table that contains information about the classification of public laws to the United States Code. See Table III.


Title

A title of the Code is the broadest subdivision of the Code. The Code is organized into 52 titles each covering a broad subject matter, such as Title 12, Banks and Banking, and Title 42, The Public Health and Welfare. Many acts also have subdivisions that are designated as titles. Act titles are typically given the Roman numeral designations I, II, III, etc.


Translation

A translation is an editorial change made in a cross reference when an act is incorporated into the Code, such as substituting “section 1002 of title 20” for “section 102 of the Higher Education Act of 1965” (which is classified to 20 U.S.C. 1002). See the Detailed Guide to the Code .