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Legal Citation Guide: Statutes


Statutes (also called 'acts') are laws enacted by legislative bodies, including those of each of the fifty states or the U.S. Congress. These laws are published in the U.S. Code, and can also be found using HPU Libraries' HeinOnline database.


Anatomy of a Statute Citation


Examples: MLA and APA style

Because the Chicago style footnote for statutes is the same as what is described in the Anatomy of a Statute Citation example above, the following examples focus on styles that use parenthetical in-text citations.

Reference list: Name of Act, U.S. Code Title Number § Section Number (Year). URL

In-text citation: (Name of Act, Year)


Every Student Succeeds Act

Reference list: Every Student Succeeds Act, 20 U.S.C. § 6301 (2015).

In-text: (Every Student Succeeds Act, 2015)


Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990

Reference list: Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et. seq. (1990).

In-text: (Americans With Disabilities Act, 1990)


(state statute) Florida Mental Health Act

Reference list: Florida Mental Health Act, Fla. Stat. § 394 (1971 & rev. 2009).

In-text: (Florida Mental Health Act, 1971/2009)

Tips and FAQs

How to read a section of the U.S. Code:

Example: 42 U.S.C. § 1981

42 refers to the Title; § 1981 refers to the specific section within that title, not the date. 

You may also be able to locate a statute by its common name, such as "Americans With Disabilities Act." 


Q: The code abbreviation on my document is not U.S.C. (United States Code)?

A: You may see abbreviations for unofficial federal codes, such as the United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A) or the United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.). There are also official and unofficial codes for each state (see box at the bottom of the page for examples).


Q: Do I need to know the full name of my statute's code? 

A: No, not unless you are an aspiring attorney. The list of abbreviations at the bottom of this page is just meant to clarify unfamiliar pieces of your citation.


Q. My statute has 'Pub. L.' in the citation?

A. This likely means the statute has not yet been published in a code like the U.S.C.. Here is how to cite it as a session law:

Name of Act, Public Law Number (abbreviated 'Pub. L. No.'), Section Number, Volume Number followed by 'Stat.' and the Page Number of the Act (Year the Statute was Passed).

Ex. Department of Transportation Act, Pub. L. No. 89-670, § 9, 80 Stat. 931 (1966).

Nothing is underlined in a statute citation.

Omit the date in parenthesis if the name of the statute includes its year of enactment.

Ex. Health Professions Education Extension Amendments of 1992


On the treatment of reference list / bibliography entries:

APA and MLA style both require reference list entries and in-text citations for statutes.

When using only a handful of legal citations, Chicago style recommends limiting legal citations to the text itself, using narrative to include information that would have gone in the footnotes. However, when using several legal documents in Chicago style, supplement with footnotes.

Chicago style only requires footnote citations for legal documents. The documents do not need to be listed in the bibliography.

Common Abbreviations

§ = section

§§ = sections

U.S.C. = United States Code

U.S.C.S. = United States Code Service

U.S.C.A. = United States Code Annotated

N.C. GEN. STAT. = General Statutes of North Carolina

N.C. Sess. Laws = Session Laws of North Carolina