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How to Do Legal Research Online for California Statutes and Codes

Updated on February 7, 2010

Researching California Law On the Web

California has 29 codes, a California Constitution, and a separate set of California statutes. Of course, California courts of law also interpret the laws. Residents who wish to do their own legal research can use online databases to search California codes and statutes. Let's say you have a legal problem and would like to do some basic research. Instead of rushing to an expensive lawyer, you can do your own research online. Certainly, though, you may need a lawyer to fix any serious legal problems.

Visit the main page for California codes. Codes are major categories of law on discrete subjects. It is not easy to do research on complex problems this way because the categories tend to overlap. However, you can search all the codes for free and find information if you have time.

Check a code and click the Search button to see the table of contents for that code. Imagine that you have been charged with a crime. You want to know exactly what the prosecutor has to prove. You can search in the Penal Code to find this information. Use the keyword box to narrow down your search.

You can also use the database for California statutes to do online legal research on California laws. You can search by chapter number and year. If you do not know this, you can use the keyword feature to run a search of all the statutes.

Research the California State Constitution to supplement your code and statute research. Use the Table of Contents or the keyword search box to find specific subjects. Remember that the Constitution generally trumps statutes. If a Constitution conflicts with a statute passed by the California legislature, then the statute may be unconstitutional.

These are not all the sources of law in California or any other state. Use these databases as a starting point. Eventually, you may need to research administrative law in California and case law. You will almost certainly need a lawyer to do your research if you have a serious legal problem.


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