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A statute is a written law passed by a legislative body. Maryland's legislative body is the Maryland General Assembly. Congress is the legislative body for the United States.
All public and permanent statutes currently in effect are published by subject in arrangements called statutory codes or code.
Codification is the process through which statutes are compiled and arranged.
An annotated code is a version of the code that include annotations, which is information added by the editors. Annotations can include summaries of cases (i.e., case law), articles, and other sources that discuss that specific statute. Case law, when available, is important in understanding statutes because the statutes themselves can be vague or ambiguous. Reading these new decisions will help you to understand how different courts may have decided what this section of the law means. Sometimes, the annotations will describe the history of how different laws have evolved into the section of law you are reviewing.
Many Maryland libraries, both law libraries and general public libraries subscribe to the Maryland Code and the United States Code.
Maryland's statutes are codified in the Maryland Code. The Maryland Code is broken down into broad subject divisions called articles. Most of the articles in the Maryland Code have names (e.g., Real Property, Family Law). Some have numbers instead (e.g., Volume 1). Each article is divided into numbered Titles (e.g., Title 10). A Title can be further divided into numbered Subtitles.
Print - There are two print editions of the Maryland Code. One is the Annotated Code of Maryland published by The Michie Company. Another is the Annotated Code of Maryland published by West. These print versions of the Code as well as the version made available through the Department of Legislative Services (Maryland General Assembly) are the official versions and the ones most accepted by Maryland's courts.
Read the law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 10-201
Online - The unannotated Maryland Code is available free on the web through the following resources:
These are unannotated, meaning that the editor's notes, including references to relevant case law, are not included.
Be careful when viewing free, online versions of the code. You cannot rely on everything you might find on the web. For example, some websites may provide access to an outdated version of the code.
In addition, there are paid online legal research databases, such as Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg BNA, that include annotated versions of the code. However, the subscription costs are usually too expensive for individual researchers. Many public law libraries in Maryland will provide free, in-person access to these databases.
Depending on your research needs, you may want to review an annotated version of the code. The information contained in the annotations, including references to case law, can help you understand the statute and see how courts have interpreted that statute section. These case annotations can also help you find additional primary sources related to your problem.
Citation - A citation will help you find a specific regulation. A citation is a reference to a legal authority (e.g., statutes, regulations, cases). A Maryland Code citation looks like this: Md. Code, Real Property § 8-210.
- "Real Property" is the name of the article/volume (Md. Code, Real Property § 8-210).
- "§ 8-210" is the specific statutory section.
- The "§" is the symbol for "section" ( Md. Code, Real Property § 8-210).
- "8" is the "Title" (Md. Code, Real Property § 8-210).
- "210" is the specific section within the title (Md. Code, Real Property § 8-210). Note that the first number in the section (i.e., the "2" in "210") is the "subtitle" (e.g., Subtitle 2).
- Even though 210 is the specific section within Title 8, when you refer to a statutory section, you would still call it "Section 8-210."
Print - The article name or number in a citation tells you to look at those volumes of the Code with that article name or number on the spine. Once you have the appropriate volume, look within that volume for the specific section number in the citation. The volume is organized in numerical order by Title. With the above example, select the print volume with "Real Property" on its spine and cover. Go to Title 10. Each Title is organized in numerical order by subtitle, then section.
If you do no have a citation, start with the index. Look up words related to your problem in the subject index (e.g., divorce, easements). Look up the code sections cited after each of the words you looked up.
Check the pocket part or supplement - As the hardbound volume may be several years old, look for a soft pamphlet in the back of the hardbound volume. This soft pamphlet is called a pocket part.
- If you find a pocket part, look for your section number in it.
- If you find your section in the pocket part, read for changes made to the section since the hardbound volume was published.
- If your section number is not in the pocket part, this means that the information you found in the hardbound volume is accurate and up-to-date.
- If you don’t find a pocket part, look for a soft supplemental pamphlet sitting next to the hard volume on the shelf. If you find a supplemental pamphlet, check it for changes to your section.
- After you check the pocket part or supplemental pamphlet, look for pamphlets at the end of the code called “Advance Sheets” or “Advanced Legislative Service.” These pamphlets are published monthly to show any changes made since the pocket parts to each code volume were published. The advance sheets are updates to the entire code, not just the one volume.
Online - Generally, online versions of the Code will allow keyword searching and browsing. If you are keyword searching, enter the citation in the search box. If you do not have a citation, you can enter different search terms.
If you are browsing, select the article name or number in the citation. Then select the title. Next, select the subtitle. You will then see a list of statute sections.
The United States Code is broken down into broad subject divisions called titles. While these titles are organized by subject, the titles of the United States Code are numbered, instead of named.
Print - The Federal Laws are collected in three different print editions. These three versions are the official United States Code (published by the Government Printing Office), the United States Code Service (published by LexisNexis), and the United States Code Annotated (published by Thomson Reuters Westlaw).
Online - You can find the United States Code online through the Office of the Law Revision Counsel, U.S. House of Representatives' website. Other websites also provide free versions of the United States Code. However, it is generally not a good idea to rely completely on free web versions because they are not necessarily accurate or completely up-to-date. Check each website for information about updates.
Citation - A citation will help you find a specific statute. A citation to the United States Code might look something like this: 42 U.S.C. § 1381. This symbol, §, means "section."
- The first number is the "Title" (i.e., Title 42) [42 U.S.C. § 1381].
- The second number is the "Section" (i.e., § 1381) [42 U.S.C. § 1381].
Searching without a citation - If you do not have a citation, there are other ways of finding the statute (e.g., statute name, public law number, etc.). The Library of Congress has a detailed guide to finding federal statutes, both online and in print.