United States Code

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Some volumes of Title 11 ( Bankruptcy ) of the United States Code Annotated (USCA)

The United States Code ( USC , formally known as the Code of Laws of the United States of America ) is the collection and codification of the general and permanent federal law of the United States .


The code is divided into 54 titles, each dealing with a broad subject area. Titles can in turn be divided into subtitles, parts, sub-parts, chapters and sub-chapters. All titles have paragraphs as their basic unit; however, these can be divided into sub-paragraphs, sections and sentences. Not all titles use the same structure above the paragraph level. Thus the 26th title (the tax laws) uses the scheme “title - subtitle - chapter - subchapter - part - subpart - paragraph - subparagraph - section - subsection - sentence - subsection”. In the 38th title (services for war veterans), however, the scheme “Title - Part - Chapter - Subchapter - Paragraph” is used. In other words, the title is always the coarsest division within the code and the paragraph (with the exception of sub-paragraphs, sections, sentences) the smallest, but in the middle levels the structure differs from title to title.

Each title is roughly the same as a printed volume, although some titles also span multiple volumes. Likewise, there is no particular length associated with the other units. A paragraph can run over several pages or consist of just a short sentence. Some elements of certain titles are also known by their systematic name. For example, in American the term "Chapter 11" ( Chapter 11 ) has become commonplace for a type of bankruptcy .

An example of a reference in the Code is 5 USC Section 552a , the Privacy Act of 1974. A lawyer would read this as "Title Five, United States Code, Section Five Hundred and Fifty-Two A".

When paragraphs are repealed, their content is removed from the code and the passage is given a footnote that summarizes what was once there. Accordingly, there are areas in the code that only consist of empty chapters with footnotes. The 7th chapter in the 8th title (Immigration Law) is called "Exclusion of Chinese" and contains references to the Chinese Exclusion Act , which is no longer in force.

Codification procedure

The official text of a federal law is the text of the printed final bill as it is presented to the President for signature or rejection. After the law becomes final, it will be submitted to the United States Archivist and published in bulk by the United States Government Printing Office . The archivist annually collects the passed laws and publishes them in context in the United States Statutes at Large (about "Laws by and large"); a somewhat similar function in Germany is fulfilled by the references of the previous year of the Federal Law Gazette .

However, the Statutes at Large cannot be used adequately for legal research, as they are structured in strict chronological order. This means that laws within a subject area can be spread over several volumes. Since new laws often change or repeal old laws, it is then also necessary to refer back and forth between the volumes in order to understand which provisions are currently in force.

The United States Code is an attempt to make it easier to find relevant and valid laws by grouping them by subject and removing obsolete provisions. The code is constantly updated by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel (LRC), an arm of the House of Representatives . The LRC determines which laws are codified and which old laws have to be removed or changed accordingly.

However, only laws of a general and permanent nature are codified. So the code does not contain laws that only apply to a few people or that are only relevant for a short period of time, such as all budget laws that only apply to one financial year . However, when these limited legal provisions are of greater concern, they are included as footnotes in the appropriate sections of the Code. Normally, the individual sections of a law are taken verbatim into the code, but editorial changes are sometimes possible (for example, the expression “the day of promulgation of this law” is replaced by the actual date of that day).

Due to the coding system, it is possible that a single draft law is coherent in the code or that it is broken. When Congress passes a large piece of legislation, the bill often contains provisions that affect many different subject areas. These provisions then fall into different sections of the Code accordingly. A law attributing financial support to ordinary farmers could affect the 7th (Agriculture), 26th (Taxes) and 43rd (Public Land) titles. This means that in the draft law, related passages in the code are distributed across the various volumes.

Under American federal law, the code is evidence at first glance of the law currently in force. However, the Statutes at Large have ultimate authority. Whenever a conflict arises, in which the courts have to determine the actual wording of the law, they will always revert to the legal text as passed by Congress.

The LRC continuously updates and revises the code and sometimes submits the newly codified version to Congress for renewed approval. The advantage here is that after such a resolution this part of the code supersedes all previous laws on the subject.

Issues and history

The first attempts to codify the federal laws were taken over by private publishers. The result was often a great help in the research. Since these publications were not official, they could only be used to a limited extent. On December 1, 1873, Congress undertook the first official codification of all laws in existence. The result was the Revised Statutes , which were adopted by Congress on June 22, 1874. A revised version was passed by Congress five years later. While the Revised Statutes were current at the time of publication, subsequent statutes were not incorporated later. With this, the codification had strayed far from the legal reality within a short time, so that the research in the Statutes at Large had to be carried out. In the 1920s, some members of Congress revived the idea of ​​codification, leading to the creation of the United States Code in 1926.

The official version of the code will be published by the LRC as a series of printed volumes. The first edition still fit into a single volume. Today the code is spread over several long volumes. Although the official version is only reprinted from scratch every six years, the LRC updates the code with appendices and footnotes whenever a new law is promulgated. Both the LRC and GPO offer electronic versions of the code. Although this is about 18 months behind the legislative process, it is always the current official version.

Lawyers in the United States often use privately issued editions with lavish commentary rather than the officially distributed version. These versions contain statements after each paragraph, which summarize, for example, applicable court cases and important technical articles. Some of these statements also contain laws that are not codified by the LCR. These editions are constantly updated and usually represent the legal reality more quickly than the official versions.

Other relevant codifications

The Code usually only contains bills passed by Congress through the normal legislative process (although the footnotes sometimes include extracts from an Executive Order or other President's documents). The Code does not contain any private laws (laws made by Congress for individuals) or federal government ordinances. These are in chronological order in the register Federal published and once a year in the Code of Federal Regulations (German about Code of Federal guidelines summarized). This code is also an important source for federal law.

Interesting sections

The 26th title contains the tax laws and describes the work of the American Internal Revenue Service (tax office at the federal level). This title is one of the largest sections of the code as it sets the guidelines for several major federal benefits like Social Security and Medicare .

The 18th title deals with criminal offenses that are prosecuted under federal law.

Another well-known section in Title 10 is known as the Uniform Code of Military Justice and defines the legal system within the military.

Some of the different types of bankruptcy are contained in Title 11. These are usually only named after their number ("Chapter 7", "Chapter 11", "Chapter 13").

A now famous paragraph ( 42 USC §1983 ) is often used to enforce fundamental rights . It provides the basis for a wide range of actions for compliance with civil rights before federal courts (federal courts). It is the codification of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 . Many different types of court cases have relied on these paragraphs, including cases of disproportionate police violence to First Amendment lawsuits against schools to maintain the separation of church and state . The actual paragraph text is relatively short, but in some exceptions footnotes and comments can run over several volumes due to the large number of significant cases.

Title in the code

The following table provides an overview of all previous titles of the code and their content. (Status: July 2015)

title Surname content
Title 1 General Commissions General provisions
Title 2 The Congress congress
Title 3 The President president
Title 4 Flag and Seal, Seat of Government, and the States Flag , seal , seat of government , states
Title 5 Government Organization and Employees Federal government and public service
Title 6 Surety bonds Guarantees
Title 6 Domestic security Internal security
Title 7 Agriculture Agriculture
Title 8 Aliens and Nationality Foreigners and Citizenship
Title 9 Arbitration Arbitration
Title 10 Armed Forces military
Title 11 Bankruptcy Bankruptcy law
Title 12 Banks and Banking Banking
Title 13 Census United States Census
Title 14 Coast Guard Coast guard
Title 15 Commerce and Trade Commercial law
Title 16 Conservation natural reserve
Title 17 Copyrights copyright
Title 18 Crimes and Criminal Procedure Criminal law
Title 19 Customs Duties Customs law
Title 20 Education education
Title 21 Food and Drugs Food and medicine
Title 22 Foreign Relations and Intercourse Foreign policy
Title 23 Highways Highways
Title 24 Hospitals and Asylums Hospitals and psychiatric clinics
Title 25 Indians Indians
Title 26 Internal Revenue Code Internal Revenue Code
Title 27 Intoxicating Liquors Alcoholic drinks
Title 28 Judiciary and Judicial Procedure Judicial system
Title 29 laboratory Employment Law
Title 30 Mineral Lands and Mining Mining
Title 31 Money and Finance Money and finance
Title 32 National Guard National Guard
Title 33 Navigation and Navigable Waters Maritime law
Title 34 Navy marine
Title 35 Patents Patent law
Title 36 Patriotic and National Observances, Ceremonies, and Organizations patriotism
Title 37 Pay and Allowances of the Uniform Services Soldier pay
Title 38 Veterans' Benefits Veterans
Title 39 Postal Service post Office
Title 40 Public Buildings, Property, and Works Public buildings, land and facilities
Title 41 Public contracts Public procurement
Title 42 The Public Health and Welfare Public Health and Welfare
Title 43 Public Lands Public land
Title 44 Public Printing and Documents Public printing and publishing
Title 45 Railroads Railway law
Title 46 Shipping shipping
Title 47 Telecommunications telecommunications
Title 48 Territories and Insular Possessions Outskirts of the United States
Title 49 Transportation traffic
Title 50 War and National Defense War and national defense
Title 51 National and Commercial Space Programs National and commercial space travel
Title 52 Voting and Elections Electoral system
Title 53 [reserved] [reserved]
Title 54 National Park Service and Related Programs National Park Service
Title was amended by Congress as positive law adopted
Title contains at least one appendix that has not yet been converted into positive law
Title was canceled and the content integrated into other titles
Track number reserved for future use

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Title 1 of the USC ( Memento of the original from March 8, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 101 kB) in the official publication of the "Office of the Law Revision Counsel" @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / uscode.house.gov
  2. ^ US Government Printing Office: United States Code. Retrieved June 25, 2015 .
  3. ^ Office of the Law Revision Counsel: United States Code. Retrieved June 25, 2015 .