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Historical versions of statutes

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Do states publish archived/historical versions of their statutes by year?

 

I am compiling a list of changes in state laws regarding seat belts, and it would help to access previous versions of specific statutes by state. I'd just like to know if they exist, even if they charge me a fee. If I could find a copy of, for example, the 1999 Alabama Statutes, or the 2006 California Vehicle Code, that would be super helpful, but my Google-fu isn't turning up anything, aside from Justia-- and they only have the statutes for certain years and certain states, not all of them.

 

Thanks in advance for any help!

Edited by Findlaw_FN

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Many older versions will not be on-line. You may have to go to actual libraries or contact the state legislatures/DOT for details. The legislative division for your state DOT might have that information readily accessible, or at least more readily than visiting libraries in every state. If you look at the statutes for the most recent laws, you will often see a notation as to the dates the law was amended. That can give you a starting point.

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I am compiling a list of changes in state laws regarding seat belts,

 

Why?

 

Answering the why might get you some helpful comments on the how.

 

Did you get a ticket in DC that you are trying to fight?

 

https://boards.answers.findlaw.com/index.php/topic/235191-dc-seat-belts-wheres-the-law-for-primary-enforcement/#entry581825

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Do states publish archived/historical versions of their statutes by year?

 

Generally whatever publisher publishes the state statutes prints a new printed set for each year. Some well stocked law libraries will keep prior year sets for use in historical research. Typically I would expect that only the state statutes for the state in which that law library is located would have any extensive sets of historical volumes, however.

 

The other option is to find annotated sets of the statutes that include notes on the prior revisions of to the statute. By looking through the changes you can reconstruct how the statute read each year. Annotated sets can be physical printed volumes or online annotated codes on a service like Westlaw or Lexis (though of course you pay for that). For some statute collections Westlaw (and perhaps Lexis too) now has a service that will allow you to reconstruct the statute for a prior year with the click of a mouse, saving you the work of doing it manually.

 

Free online resources that maintain prior year codes are more limited and spotty. However, one such resource for some states is Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute.

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Why?

 

Answering the why might get you some helpful comments on the how.

 

Did you get a ticket in DC that you are trying to fight?

 

https://boards.answers.findlaw.com/index.php/topic/235191-dc-seat-belts-wheres-the-law-for-primary-enforcement/#entry581825

 

Yes, sorry-- this is actually for a research project. We are looking at modeling seat belt use per state, per year, versus the strength of each state's laws, per year. This entails documenting several aspects of each state's laws. Hope that makes sense. States that have primary enforcement for seat belts tend to have much higher rates of seat belt use-- hence the question that you linked.

 

If this is not the place I should be asking, let me know!

 

 

Generally whatever publisher publishes the state statutes prints a new printed set for each year. Some well stocked law libraries will keep prior year sets for use in historical research. Typically I would expect that only the state statutes for the state in which that law library is located would have any extensive sets of historical volumes, however.

 

The other option is to find annotated sets of the statutes that include notes on the prior revisions of to the statute. By looking through the changes you can reconstruct how the statute read each year. Annotated sets can be physical printed volumes or online annotated codes on a service like Westlaw or Lexis (though of course you pay for that). For some statute collections Westlaw (and perhaps Lexis too) now has a service that will allow you to reconstruct the statute for a prior year with the click of a mouse, saving you the work of doing it manually.

 

Free online resources that maintain prior year codes are more limited and spotty. However, one such resource for some states is Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute.

 

Lexis is what I'm using currently through my university, but their annotations mostly contain spotty and often broken links to previous bills/legislation, which doesn't usually tell me what the previous law actually said (e.g. it will say "2003 amendment increased seat belt fine to $50", but that doesn't tell me what the fine was before it became $50.)

 

While it's good to have the legislative history, what I'm really looking for is a way to compare statutes by year. That would make it much easier to actually comb through the law and pinpoint exactly what changed.

 

Re: your first paragraph-- I was afraid of that. I live in Michigan so I'm sure I could find several sets of Michigan's laws for 1986-2015, but it's going to be a lot harder to find, say, Hawaii...

 

Ah, well. Thank you for your help. I'll take a look at the Cornell link and see if that proves useful.

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Do states publish archived/historical versions of their statutes by year?

 

I'm not quite sure what you're asking here.  Obviously, ever state publishes its statutes and publishes updates as time goes by.  However, I don't know of any state that publishes a completely new version of its statutes on an annual basis.  To give you an example, California does not publish an "official" hardcopy version of the 29 California Codes.  Two publishers (West and LexisNexis) publish printed versions.  An entire set of West's Annotated California Codes contains 398 volumes (plus indexes).  The current volumes have publication dates that range from 1966 through 2015.  A complete set currently costs just under $12,000, and any law library and many larger regular libraries will have sets.  As the laws evolve (and, for the annotated codes, as cases are issued that interpret the laws are issued), the volumes are updated with looseleaf "pocket parts."  The West publication indicates when each code section was enacted and the dates of amendments.  Typically, when a new pocket part is issued, the owner of the set will discard the old pocket part.  I would assume, but don't know, that some places will maintain archives of old pocket parts, and I also assume the Legislature employs archivists who maintain old versions of the laws.

 

I assume most or all of the foregoing is relatively similar to what happens in states other than California (although I suspect many states publish official, written versions of their laws).

 

 

 

I am compiling a list of changes in state laws regarding seat belts, and it would help to access previous versions of specific statutes by state. I'd just like to know if they exist, even if they charge me a fee.

 

That would be one heck of a monumental project.  California alone has at least a dozen current code sections "regarding seat belts" (starting with Section 27302 of the Vehicle Code).  You would have to look at each code section and then try and ascertain the nature of each update over the years (if I recall correctly, California instituted its mandatory seat belt law for the driver and passengers of ordinary vehicles sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s).  Then you'd have to do the same thing for each of the other 49 states.

 

 

 

If I could find a copy of, for example, the 1999 Alabama Statutes, or the 2006 California Vehicle Code

 

I don't know of any state that maintains (much less online) complete versions of statutes on a year-by-year basis (or, since laws are sometimes amended in the middle of a year, more frequently).  However, you obviously could check with law libraries in each state and or the legislative archivist in each state.

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I'm not quite sure what you're asking here.  Obviously, ever state publishes its statutes and publishes updates as time goes by.  However, I don't know of any state that publishes a completely new version of its statutes on an annual basis.  To give you an example, California does not publish an "official" hardcopy version of the 29 California Codes.  Two publishers (West and LexisNexis) publish printed versions.  An entire set of West's Annotated California Codes contains 398 volumes (plus indexes).  The current volumes have publication dates that range from 1966 through 2015.  A complete set currently costs just under $12,000, and any law library and many larger regular libraries will have sets.

Apologies for being unclear. I assumed that states, at the end of each year, would publish their statutes, complete with any changes/amendments that were made as a result of bills passed each year. E.g. over the course of the year 2010, California enacted four different amendments that changed various statutes within their Vehicle codes; therefore in December 2010 they would publish a complete copy of the Vehicle code, along with any others, in an archive that included the changes wrought by the amendments passed that year. Is that not the case? I guess I was thinking something like the state codes I see here on archive.org.

 

 

That would be one heck of a monumental project.  California alone has at least a dozen current code sections "regarding seat belts" (starting with Section 27302 of the Vehicle Code).  You would have to look at each code section and then try and ascertain the nature of each update over the years (if I recall correctly, California instituted its mandatory seat belt law for the driver and passengers of ordinary vehicles sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s).  Then you'd have to do the same thing for each of the other 49 states.

Yes, it is quite a large project, we've been working on it for several months. However, we're not focusing on ALL aspects of seat belt laws-- mainly we are focusing on fine amounts, primary enforcement status, and front/rear seat requirements (i.e. whether all occupants are required to wear belts, or just front seat occupants). And that is generally all contained in one or two individual statutes (usually called "<State> Mandatory Seat Belt Act" or something similar (e.g. section 27315 of the California Vehicle Code).

 

My approach so far has been pretty much exactly what you described: to examine each code section and try to determine what has changed year-by-year with the help of LexisNexis. If you think that's the best option, then I'll just keep plugging through it, and maybe talk to my supervisor about possible adjustments. 

 

I don't know of any state that maintains (much less online) complete versions of statutes on a year-by-year basis (or, since laws are sometimes amended in the middle of a year, more frequently).  However, you obviously could check with law libraries in each state and or the legislative archivist in each state.

Well...why not? I understand that laws and statutes frequently get amended, but surely I'm not the first person to think "hm, I wonder when segregation became illegal in Georgia", or "I wonder when it stopped being a legal requirement to wear a motorcycle helmet in Michigan." It seems like an archive of laws would be very useful for law students, to be able to look up historical laws. But I am definitely not a law student so maybe I'm totally wrong!

 

Thank you guys for all your help!

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Yes, sorry-- this is actually for a research project. We are looking at modeling seat belt use per state, per year, versus the strength of each state's laws, per year. This entails documenting several aspects of each state's laws. Hope that makes sense. States that have primary enforcement for seat belts tend to have much higher rates of seat belt use-- hence the question that you linked.

 

I'm still not clear on the purpose of the study.

 

What is it that you hope to gain, learn, or accomplish with it?

 

There already seems to be a plethora of seat belt use studies on almost an annual basis:

 

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=seat+belt+use+by+state

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My approach so far has been pretty much exactly what you described: to examine each code section and try to determine what has changed year-by-year with the help of LexisNexis. If you think that's the best option, then I'll just keep plugging through it, and maybe talk to my supervisor about possible adjustments.

 

I can't think of an easier way to do this, but I would think it sensible to divide up the states rather than having one person handle the entire country.

 

 

 

Well...why not? I understand that laws and statutes frequently get amended, but surely I'm not the first person to think "hm, I wonder when segregation became illegal in Georgia", or "I wonder when it stopped being a legal requirement to wear a motorcycle helmet in Michigan." It seems like an archive of laws would be very useful for law students, to be able to look up historical laws. But I am definitely not a law student so maybe I'm totally wrong!

 

It's all out there, but it's not organized in the most convenient way.  Why?  Your guess is as good as mine.  In the practice of law, it is occasionally useful to research the legislative history of a law, and there are services who will do that for a price because it tends to be fairly tedious.

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While it's good to have the legislative history, what I'm really looking for is a way to compare statutes by year. That would make it much easier to actually comb through the law and pinpoint exactly what changed.

 

What you get varies by resource. There are some services that provide either a compiled history of the statute showing not just references to the bills that changed the statute (which Westlaw, Lexis and others have long provided) but also will give you the actual text of the statute that was changed in each bill and/or will actually show you each year exactly how the statute read each year. For example, Westlaw provides me with a service that will show me exactly how the federal Internal Revenue Code and my state tax statutes read for each year going back to about 1995 for the feds and 2008 for the state. It's a work in progress, they keep expanding how far they go back. My bet is that it has a similar service for all the parts of my state's code, not just the tax provisions though I've not had much need for historical research in my state law for things other than tax. Perhaps Lexis has a similar feature. If your university has a law school then its law library should have a law librarian who can show you how Lexis does that if it has that feature.

 

The further back you go, the harder it will be to find convenient sources for finding the older versions of the law. When I started practice, the electronic research services did not provide the easy access to older versions as they do now, so I bought my own hardbound set of the tax statutes every year and have kept all those. I now have one of the more complete tax statute collections in my area, an invaluable resource for me when I have need of it. But I don't have the statutes for all 50 states and DC. I couldn't afford to buy and store all those books. Only the very largest law libraries (e.g. Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, etc) in the nation might have collections for all the states going back for some period of time. If you can find a library that does and that you can get access to (not all law libraries are open to the public) then it might be worth a trip to that library just for the time it would save you running around in various states to find this stuff if it’s not online.

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Your task may be made a little easier since many states do not define the lack of use of safety belts (Note: the term "safety belt" is more commonly used than "seat belt") as a primary offense. For instance, in Virginia the safety belt law affirmatively says the penalty for not using safety belts is secondary to other offenses. Sec. 46.2-1094.F, Code of Virginia.

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