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Circuit Riders: Statutory History

Basic Legal Research Training

Statutory History

The statutory history line at the end of each federal statute tells you when that statute was enacted, when it was amended, and by which Public Law(s).

The history line for a federal statute is easier to read than the history line for a South Carolina statute. The history line for a statute in the U.S. Code begins with the Public Law number and date it was enacted, along with the citation where the Public Law was published in the United States Statutes at Large. The same information follows for all amendments to the statute, in chronological order.

For example, the statutory history line highlighted below for the criminal penalties code section of the Consumer Products Safety Act, tells you that  15 U.S.C. § 2070 was enacted on October 27, 1972 by Public Law No. 92-573, § 21, which was published in volume 86 of the United States Statutes at Large on page 1225. That same history line also tells you that 15 U.S.C. § 2070 was amended on August 4, 2008 by Public Law No. 110-314, title II, § 217(c)(1), (2), (d), which was published in volume 122 of the United States Statutes at Large on page 3060.

After the history line for a federal statute, there may be notes explaining the effect of each amendment as well as their effective dates. This information helps you compare the language of various versions of a particular statute.  Below the history line for 15 U.S.C. § 2070 are notes on each of the 2008 amendments to that statute.

There may also be pending legislation that you need to track or a very recent amendment to a statute that has yet to be incorporated into the text of a statute or its history line. To check for the most recent or pending updates to a statute, researchers check online and use citators. See Updating Federal Statutes.

18 U.S.C. ยง 1514A (2012).