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North Carolina Constitution, Statutes & Ordinances Research

This guide provides an overview of sources and research strategies for North Carolina statutory law, including the state's constitution, statutes, session laws, and county/municipal ordinances.

Overview of the General Statutes of North Carolina

Overview of the General Statutes of North Carolina

The official codification of North Carolina statutory law is the General Statutes of North Carolina Annotated. The state's official statutory code is published by Lexis and contains public laws currently in force in North Carolina, arranged by subject matter.

A new edition of the General Statutes of North Carolina Annotated is published every two years on the odd-numbered year, with interim supplements issued during the even-numbered years to reflect any new statutes or amendments to current statutes that occur in between new editions. Thus, researchers relying on the print versions of North Carolina's statutory code must take care to look in the most recent edition and to check the interim supplements for any changes to statutes of interest.   

Why use an annotated code? 

Annotated codes are excellent tools for researchers because they provide additional primary and secondary law sources related to sections within the statutory code. The annotations that accompany statutes contain references to regulations and case law interpreting and applying the statute, and secondary sources are also identified that help to explain complex statutory language and its application. 

There are two annotated code publications containing North Carolina statutory law. Researchers should review both versions, because while the statutes themselves will be the same, the annotations accompanying those statutes will be different depending upon the version consulted. 

  • General Statutes of North Carolina Annotated: Published by Lexis, this is the official publication of the North Carolina statutory law and contains annotations of related regulations, cases, and secondary materials. For legal researchers without access to a Lexis account, the General Statutes of North Carolina Annotated are available in print at the law library. (KFN7430 1943 .A22) 
  • West's North Carolina General Statutes Annotated: Published by West, this is an unofficial publication of North Carolina statutory law, but it also contains annotations of related regulations, cases, and secondary materials. For legal researchers without access to a Westlaw account, West's North Carolina General Statutes Annotated is available in print at the law library. (KFN7430 1943 .A241) 

Note: UNC Law faculty and students can access annotated versions of North Carolina's statutory code via their Lexis and Westlaw database subscriptions. See below for a more complete description of these resources. 

Finding North Carolina Statutes Online

Finding North Carolina Statutes Online

The following is a list of databases and websites that provide access to the current version of the North Carolina statutory code. If you are interested in learning more about historic (also known as "superseded") codes, please view the next section of this research guide. 

Subscription Databases

UNC Law faculty and students can access the North Carolina statutory code via their subscription databases. Remember that each of these resources provides access to annotated versions of the North Carolina statutory code: 

  • General Statutes of North Carolina Annotated: Available via Lexis Advance, this is the official publication of the North Carolina statutory law and contains annotations of related regulations, cases, and secondary materials. Note that Lexis Advance does not provide an index or popular names table for the North Carolina statutory code. 
  • West's North Carolina General Statutes Annotated: Available via Westlaw Edge, this is an unofficial publication of North Carolina statutory law, but it also contains annotations of related regulations, cases, and secondary materials. Westlaw Edge also provides access to useful finding tools, including an index and a popular names table
Free Online Sources 

There are various free, online sources that provide access to unofficial versions of the North Carolina statutory code. Remember that these sources are unofficial and do not contain annotations. Be sure to check these sources for their updating information to ensure that you are looking at current material. Of the sources listed below, the most reliable will be the North Carolina statutory code available via the North Carolina General Assembly's website. 

  • North Carolina General Assembly: The NCGA provides access to North Carolina's statutory code. The website also provides the Table of Contents for the statutory code, and it contains options for searching by keyword or citation. 
  • FindLaw: FindLaw is a free online source for primary law materials maintained by Thomson Reuters, the same company behind Westlaw Edge. This source also allows users to search in the North Carolina statutory code by citation or keyword. 

Finding Historical Codes

Finding Historical North Carolina Statutory Codes

Occasionally, legal researchers need to reference laws that are no longer in force, or they need to reference earlier versions of statutes before current amendments went into effect. The most recent edition of the state's statutory code contains only public laws that are currently in force, and they do not include superseded statutes. Thus, legal researchers need to reference earlier versions of North Carolina's statutory code to determine what the law was during a specific period in time. 

What is a superseded code?

The term "superseded" is used in the legal field to refer to outdated versions of primary legal materials, including statutes and regulations. Superseded codes are often referenced when legal researchers need to understand what the law was in a certain year.  


History of North Carolina's Statutory Code 

Throughout its history, North Carolina's statutory code has been revised and/or recodified numerous times and in various formats. The following chart provides a basic outline of the types of statutory publications historically used in North Carolina: 

Time Period  Description of Statutory Publication
1776-1943 This is the period of what is commonly known as the historical statutes. These compilations of North Carolina statutory law were published as single volumes by various private individuals/publishers, and there was not a fixed publication schedule. HeinOnline's State Statutes: A Historical Archive provides access to most of these statutory publications. 
1943-1979 During this period, North Carolina's statutory code was formally codified in expanding permanent and replacement bound volumes, accompanied by cumulative supplements, and, later, biannual interim supplements.
1979-1999 North Carolina's statutory code was published in looseleaf format. This publication was characterized by interfiled binders, cumulative annual supplements, and biannual interim supplements. 
1999-Present Under the current publication system, a complete edition of North Carolina's statutory code is published every two years on the odd-numbered year, with interim supplements published in the even-numbered years. 

Locating Superseded Versions of North Carolina's Statutory Code
Print Collection

The law library has a complete collection of North Carolina's superseded statutes available in print. 

  • Historical Codes, 1776-1943: The majority of the law library's historical codes (1776-1943) are located in the Rare Book Room. These titles are available for viewing, but researchers should contact the reference desk for more information. 
  • North Carolina Statutory Codes, 1943-Present: The law library's collection of North Carolina's superseded codes from 1943-present are available in print on the first floor of the library. (KFN7430 1943 .A22)
Online Database Collections

The following databases provide access to North Carolina's superseded statutes in digitized form.

  • HeinOnline - State Statutes: A Historical Archive: HeinOnline provides access to North Carolina's statutory law publications from 1751-1927. In addition to providing access to the earliest publications of North Carolina statutory law, this collection also provides access to compilations of North Carolina's colonial laws. (Available to the UNC Community.) 
  • LLMC Digital: The LLMC Digital collection of North Carolina statutory law publications is more limited in scope than HeinOnline, but there is access to some of the major historical statutory law publications from 1751-1924. For example, digitized scans of Martin's Acts of Assembly (1795), Battle's Revisal (1873), and the Consolidated North Carolina Statutes (McGehee & McIntosh, 1920) are available. (Available to the UNC Community.) 
  • Making of Modern Law: Primary Sources: The Making of Modern Law collection provides access to a more limited collection of North Carolina statutory law publications from 1800-1920. (Available to the UNC Community.)