District of Columbia Resources

This State Guide provides an in-depth look at sources of law within the District of Columbia.

Tips for Finding Law on Your Issue

Finding the Sections:

Now that you know how bills are enacted and how laws are published and compiled, the first place to find the law is the D.C. Code. You may be tempted to go straight to Lexis or Westlaw. Lexis and the web version are convenient to use if you have the citation. The electronic versions are usually more up-to-date, minimizing the need to update what you have already obtained. If all you have is a legal issue and you want to find which sections of the D.C. Code deal with it, the print version and Westlaw are more user-friendly because of the Index, which allows you to look up a legal concept by keyword. The print version also has various finding aids.

Updating Your Sections:

  • If you have access to Lexis or Westlaw, you can KeyCite (on Westlaw) or Shepardize (on Lexis) your D.C. Code section.
  • If you are using the print D.C. Code, you will have to check for any laws that have been passed since the last update of the D.C. Code, which is usually a few months out of date.
  • The bound volumes of the D.C. Official Code were published in 2001. These bound volumes are supplemented by pocket parts (which reside in a pocket on the inside of the back book cover) and, in some instances, supplementary pamphlets, which are in turn supplemented by the "Session Law Service" (which is shelved at the end of the set).
  • The bound volumes of the unofficial Lexis D.C. Code were published in 2001. These bound volumes are supplemented by pocket parts called "Supplements" (which reside in a pocket on the inside of the back book cover), which are in turn supplemented by pale brown paperback "Advance Legislative Service" (which is shelved at the end of the set).
  • Even if you are using an electronic version, you may have to check for any pending legislation that will affect your section. That's when you have to look up bills and bill information. Additionally, Keycite and Shepard's now indicate whether a particular Code section may be affected by pending legislation.

District of Columbia Code Finding Aids:

Both the official and the Lexis versions of the D.C. Code in print have a separate General Index volume and another volume containing all of the following tables:

  • United States Code Table
    • Unlike most state codes, D.C. Code Annotated contains federal statutes which have an impact on the District of Columbia. This table indicates those sections of the D.C. Code which are also included in the United States Code.
  • D.C. Laws Not Codified Table
    • Not all D.C. Laws enacted by the Council are codified. This table accounts for those since January 1, 1982, which are not codified in the D.C. Code but have been published in the District of Columbia Register (DCR).
  • Emergency Act Table
    • Emergency Acts are adopted by a two-thirds vote of the D.C. Council. They are only valid for 90 days. They do not require a second reading. Nor are they subject to congressional approval or pre-publication in the DC Register. Identified with an "E" appearing in the prefix of the act number (e.g., 15E-1), they are always treated as notes in the D.C. Code. This table lists emergency acts chronologically by the date of enactment and gives the D.C. Code section where the act was noted.
  • District of Columbia Register Table
    • A bill becomes an Act when it is passed and signed by the Mayor. An Act will become a Law upon congressional approval. These laws are published in the District of Columbia Register. The table indicates, by citing to the District of Columbia Register, the disposition of the D.C. Laws in the 1981 edition and 2001 edition.
  • Popular Name Table
    • The table is an alphabetical list of names of acts, with dates and citations of the acts.
  • Disposition Table
    • This table lists all enactments (including old British statutes, old Virginia statutes, U.S. Statutes at Large, and D.C. Laws) which affect sections of the D.C. Code appearing in the 1981 edition. Using the Disposition Table, one can determine the disposition of the act in the 1981 and 2001 edition.
  • Comparative Sections OR Parallel Reference Table
    • This table compares sections of the 1981 Edition of the District of Columbia Code to their respective sections of the 2001 Edition, and the sections of the 1973 edition to the 1981 edition.