There are four key methods for locating federal statutes in print and online:
(1) by citation;
(2) by popular name;
(3) by browsing the table of contents; and
(4) by subject.
If you know the citation to a particular federal statute, you can locate it by going to the volume that contains the title and section for that statute. For example, to locate 18 U.S.C. § 1514A in the official U.S. Code or in one of the unofficial annotated versions, find the volume that contains Title 18, Section 1514A and open the book to that statute.
Free government websites like the official Office of the Law Revision Counsel (OLRC) and GPO's govinfo, and educational sites like Cornell's Legal Information Institute allow you to access federal statutes by citation (See United States Code Online below).
In Westlaw or Lexis, simply type the citation into its global search box (See Finding Federal Statutes Using Westlaw & Lexis).
Popular Names Tables typically provide alphabetical lists of Acts by popular name, along with the public law that enacted the Act and its location in the U.S. Code.
Some popular names tables provide more detail than others when listing the code sections enacted by a specific public law. For example, the U.S.C.A. includes each section of the Act and the corresponding code section it enacted:
The websites for the Office of the Law Revision Counsel (OLRC) and Cornell's Legal Information Institute both include tables for retrieving federal laws by popular name. Westlaw (U.S.C.A.) and Lexis (U.S.C.S.) also include popular names tables as part of their annotated U.S. Code databases. Another method for retrieving laws by popular name in online databases is to conduct a keyword search.
For example, the whistleblower protection statute 18 U.S.C. § 1514A enacted as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act is published in Title 18 (Crimes and Criminal Procedure), section 1514A (Civil action to protect against retaliation in fraud case) of the U.S. Code. It is one of several statutes organized in the U.S. Code under Chapter 73 of Title 18 —Obstruction of Justice. If you browse Chapter 73, you also find section 1515, a definitions statute located just below the the whistleblower statute.
Free websites, Westlaw (U.S.C.A) and Lexis (U.S.C.S.) all allow you to browse federal laws in the U.S. Code by title, chapter, and section.
The print codes (official U.S. Code and unofficial U.S.C.A. and U.S.C.S.) all include General Index volumes for you to browse topics and subtopics for relevant federal statutes. The excerpt below is from the print version of the U.S.C.S., which directs you to 18 § 1514A under the topic WHISTLEBLOWING, subtopic, Fraud, securities. Indexes can also be helpful by referring you to other topics you may not have thought to consult.
Westlaw and Lexis each include an index to browse or search its online version of the U.S. Code (U.S.C.A and U.S.C.S., respectively).
You can keyword search the U.S. Code using free websites and subscription databases like Westlaw and Lexis. When conducting a keyword search for a federal statute, if the database permits, it can be helpful to narrow your search by title or search the table of contents, rather than searching the text of the entire U.S. Code. You can also take advantage of Advanced Search features to search specific fields and for help constructing a Boolean search with connectors and expanders (See Finding Federal Statutes Using Westlaw & Lexis).
The U.S. House of Representatives' Office of the Law Revision Counsel maintains an up-to-date and searchable online version of the United States Code that allows you to retrieve a federal statute by citation, browse by title and section, locate an Act by popular name, or search the text of the United States Code.
The Government Publishing Office (GPO) maintains an authenticated online version of the United States Code through its govinfo website that you can browse by title and section, retrieve by citation, or keyword search.
Non-governmental websites such as Cornell’s Legal Information Institute offer unofficial unannotated versions of the United States Code that may allow you to browse, search, or retrieve federal statutes by citation or popular name.