Official State of Iowa Website

Federal (United States) Statutes

You will find federal statutes in the United States Code (organized by topic) and the Statutes at Large (session laws organized by the legislative session in which they were passed). When you are citing a statutory law to a court, you should usually cite to the relevant section or sections of the United States Code.

The United State Code online

The United States Code is freely available through many websites, including many federal government websites. One helpful website, which includes the United States Code and other useful research tools, is the Office of the Law Revision Counsel’s website. This website lets you browse the code and conduct a search of the code. The website also gives search tips, which are available here.  Icon of a hand typing on a keyboard

The Office of the Law Revision Counsel’s website also offers a “Popular Name Tool.” The “popular name” of a law is the name you may hear people use when they talk about the law. An example of the popular name of a law is the CARES Act, or the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Using the Popular Name Tool, you can figure out where an act ended up in the United States Code. Other aspects of the website can be helpful when you need to do legislative history research. 

What to do after you find a code section

When you find a code section that seems relevant to your case, remember that your research is not done! More than one code section may affect your situation, so make sure you check the surrounding code sections. Also look for a section called “Definitions” in the chapter or title where you found the relevant section or sections, as this section might give more information on the meaning the legislature intended for the words used in the code section. Icon of a checklist and pencil

You will also want to make sure that the code section is current, meaning that no new statutes have changed the section.  

Because the language of the code section rarely gives a complete picture of the law on a topic, you will also want to look for cases that discuss your code section and your issue more generally. Annotated codes are a great way to find cases that cite the code section or sections you have found. A company called LexisNexis publishes an annotated version of the United States Code called the United States Code Service. A company called Thomson Reuters publishes the United States Code Annotated. Neither of these annotated codes are available for free online, so you will need to visit a law library for access. 

Visit our Finding Case Law section for more information on good ways to find cases on your topic.