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Criminal Justice: Finding Laws, Cases, & Codes

Understanding Jurisdictions

Finding a law or case can depend on knowing the jurisdiction of the court. In most cases these jurisdictions fall under three categories: federalstate and local.

  • Federal (sometimes national) jurisdiction can involve laws affecting only the entire country and be cases tried before the US Supreme Court
  • State jurisdiction can involve laws affecting only the state and be cases tried before the Washington Supreme Court
  • Local jurisdiction can involve laws affecting only the particular district or municipality and be cases tried before the county court such as Pierce County Superior Court

Links to these three different courts can be found below.

Knowing which Jurisdiction can help in searching the right databases and navigating to the right webpages. The Library of Congress has an excellent Legal Research Guide that is divided by jurisdictions. Check it out by clicking the link below.

Other useful information to gather before you search:

  • Court Name: the name of the court where the case is being held
  • Individuals first and last names of those involved in the case
  • Business names of those involved in the case
  • Case type (Criminal; Civil etc.)
  • Law type (Permanent; Regulation; Appropriation)
  • Code citation (RCW 82.32.180)

Legal DIgital Repositories

These legal digital repositories will help you find open access law journals which give legal analysis of laws and court cases

Finding Laws and Codes

All Code citations are created by the Title and/or Chapter and Section where that code is located.  Each of these components create a number. 

  • 6USC1101 refers to Title 6, Section 1101
  • RCW 82.32.180 refers to Title 82, Chapter 32, Section 180

Finding Codes:

  • If you have the whole citation you can search any of the databases below for the related code. 
  • If you have a portion of the citation or are interested in exploring a particular title or chapter, you can also browse through the codes.

Federal laws and codes:‚Äč

California State laws and codes:

Merced County laws and codes:

Finding Federal Cases

FindLaw is a resource that can search across various jurisdictions, from the U.S. Supreme Court down to particular States. You can search by the type of law, jurisdiction or practice area. Utilize the links below to search different parts of the FindLaw database that relate to federal cases.

Another resource for searching federal cases comes from the Legal Information Institute, a database provided by the Cornell University Law School.


Many of the legal sources used and pages modeled after Pierce College's Laws, Cases & Codes LibGuide, last updated on July 14, 2020