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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.

What Is in This Guide?

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North Carolina Constitution, State Statutes, Session Laws, & County and Municipal Ordinances

One of the first steps in legal research is determining if there is a governing statute or ordinance in effect. Many of the resources needed to locate North Carolina legislative materials are available in the Law Library or the nearby School of Government. Only rarely will the researcher have to go to the Legislative Library in Raleigh. The following pages provide information on how to find these resources:

Tips for Conducting North Carolina Legislative Research

Tips for Conducting Statutory Research in North Carolina

  • When using a North Carolina statutory code, it is best to use an annotated version if available, as it provides case annotations and other notes related to the statutes.

  • Look for definitions sections in statutes. Not all statutes have definitions sections, but if one is provided it can help you understand certain provisions. You may need to look to case law or secondary sources when a definition is not clear and needs interpretation.

  • Do not expect all relevant statutory provisions on a topic to appear together in the code. Even if a chapter seems clearly focused on a topic, other statutes may apply that are found in unexpected places in the code.

  • An updated edition of the General Statutes of North Carolina is published every two years. However, new laws are often passed before the statutory code is revised.  Use session laws to find changes in the law between publications of the code.  Session laws are also useful for finding out what the law was at an earlier time. 

  • After researching North Carolina statutes, check for any related state regulations (administrative rules) related to the statute. A review of these materials for North Carolina can be found in our North Carolina Administrative Law research guide

  • Be aware that county and municipal ordinances may also be applicable. 

  • Secondary materials like legislative committee reports, studies, evaluations, audits, and fiscal notes can be helpful in understanding the legislative intent behind a statute. A review of these materials for North Carolina can be found in our North Carolina Legislative History research guide.