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Finding Federal Regulations When You Don’t Have a Citation
Regulations created by federal agencies are published in the Code of Federal Regulations ("CFR"). It is possible to search the CFR in print at many public libraries, or to search a free electronic version on the web. The electronic version of the CFR is not significantly more up to date than the print version, so it is necessary to update the regulations you find in either version using the List of C.F.R. Sections Affected and the Federal Register.
Searching CFR in Print
The CFR has an index volume that allows searching by subject; just look up key words related to your problem, then look up the CFR sections to which you are referred.
Once you have found a federal regulation that applies to your problem, you will need to update it. To update a CFR section in print, begin by finding the latest issue of the List of Sections Affected ("LSA"), which is probably shelved nearby. The best way to explain updating CFR regulations is to use an example.
Suppose you wanted to update 38 C.F.R. § 14.634. You would pull the latest available issue of the LSA from the shelf, and look for the beginning of the list of sections in title 38. Then you would scan the list to see if section 14.634 was listed.
In the image above, you can see that the LSA does list an amendment to 38 C.F.R. § 14.634. The number 8547 on the right side of the column tells you what page of the current year's Federal Register you would look up to see the changes to the original regulation. You would then look for the issue of the Federal Register that includes that page number. In most libraries, the Federal Register will be shelved near the CFR.
Checking the LSA is not the last step in updating a federal regulation. Notice in the illustration above that the latest available LSA at the time this page was created covered changes made to federal regulations from July 1, 2002 through March 31, 2003. You would still need to check for changes that occurred after March 31, 2003. To do this, you would next look at the last issue of the Federal Register for each or partial month that has passed since March 31, 2003. For example, if you were conducting your research in the middle of May, 2003, and using the LSA shown above, you would next need to find the April 30, 2003 issue of the Federal Register and the last issue published in May 2003. You would then check the "List of CFR Parts Affected during April" in the April 30 Federal Register and the "List of CFR Parts Affected during May" from the last May issue to see if any additional changes had been made to 38 CFR part 14 since March 31, 2003.
Searching CFR on the Web
If you know which agency regulates the area of law you are researching, one of the easiest ways to find federal regulations is to look at the website of that agency. You can find a list of federal agencies with links to their websites at USA.gov. Many federal agencies publish their regulations on their websites behind a link called “Laws and Regulations,” or something similar. If you don’t know which federal agency regulates your area of law, you could try searching the U.S. Government Manual at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/gmanual/index.html. The Manual gives descriptions of federal agencies.
If you can’t figure out which agency regulates the area of law you are researching and that type of law is not discussed on the Peoples Law Library, you will probably have to search the Code of Federal Regulations (“CFR”). You can search the CFR on the web for free at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/ecfr/index.html. To search the full text of the entire CFR, click the link labeled “Simple Search,” then enter your key words in the "Search for" box and click the “Submit search” button. For example, if you wanted to find regulations about veterans’ benefits, you might type the words veterans benefits in the search box and click submit.
To browse or search the CFR one title at a time, click the “Simple Search” link as mentioned above, type your search terms in the "Search for" box, and type the title number in the "Enter a Title Number" box.
Is this legal advice?
This site offers legal information, not legal advice. We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information and to clearly explain your options. However we do not provide legal advice - the application of the law to your individual circumstances. For legal advice, you should consult an attorney. The Maryland State Law Library, a court-related agency of the Maryland Judiciary, sponsors this site. In the absence of file-specific attribution or copyright, the Maryland State Law Library may hold the copyright to parts of this website. You are free to copy the information for your own use or for other non-commercial purposes with the following language “Source: Maryland's People’s Law Library – www.peoples-law.org. © Maryland State Law Library, 2013.”