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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 Session Laws of North Carolina

Overview of the Session Laws of North Carolina

Session laws are all the ratified bills and resolutions passed in a given session of the North Carolina General Assembly, and they are arranged in the order in which they became law. Session laws in North Carolina are published in the official title of Session Laws of North Carolina

Session laws are an important tool for statutory research for several reasons. First, the session laws contain all laws passed in a given legislative session, including all public laws, private laws, local laws, and appropriations bills. The General Statutes of North Carolina contains only public laws. 

In addition, if a statute has been amended or repealed, it will not appear in subsequent publications of the General Statutes. Legal researchers working with laws that have been repealed or amended need to rely on superseded statutory codes or the session laws to view the original text of the law. 

Finally, session laws are useful for viewing the entire text of a law upon its ratification. The General Statutes are a topical arrangement of North Carolina's public laws, so sections of a single piece of legislation may be arranged into different topical areas within the statutory code. The session laws are the best place to view a ratified law in its original, complete form. 

Finding Session Laws

Locating the Session Laws of North Carolina

Print

The Session Laws of North Carolina (KFN7425 .A22) are available in print on the Fourth Floor of the UNC Law Library. This print collection is the official publication of North Carolina sessions laws and includes session laws from 1830-present.

Older versions of North Carolina's session laws from 1784 through the early 1900s are available in the Rare Book Room. The Law Library also holds some historical years of session laws on microfiche (a machine-readable physical format). Please ask a librarian for assistance if you wish to view the copies in one of these collections.


Subscription Databases

Both the official Session Laws of North Carolina and historic versions of session laws are available in digitized form through subscription databases at UNC: 

  • HeinOnline's Session Laws Library: HeinOnline's Session Laws Library contains digitized copies of both historic and current session laws for the fifty states. Their collection of North Carolina session laws runs from 1715-2018 and includes colonial laws (1715-1788). 
  • LLMC Digital: The Law Library Microform Consortium provides access to North Carolina session laws from 1715-1986. The database is best navigated by browsing collections.

Free Online Sources 

North Carolina session laws are also available online through various government sources

  • North Carolina General Assembly - The NCGA website provides access to an unofficial version of North Carolina's session laws from 1959-present. The website allows users to search through the session laws by citation or key terms. This is a great resource to use if you are searching for session laws on a particular topic, but you do not yet have any citations. 
  • North Carolina State Government Publications Collection: The State Library of North Carolina provides access to digital versions of the official Session Laws of North Carolina from 1777-present. This collection is best used when you already have a citation or specific legislative year identified.