Is there a reference book which lists all the laws of the United States? Can I buy it in a bookstore? Since “ignorance of the law is not an excuse”, shouldn’t a law-abiding citizen be able to look up the laws regarding a particular subject without paying a lawyer?
All the Federal Laws are contained within a multi volume set called the United States Code, but there are thousands upon thousands of sets of laws at the State, County, and Municipal level.
On the other hand, you could set up an account with the legal databases Lexis ( http://www.lexis.com ) or Westlaw ( http://www.westlaw.com ) and have access to all the Federal and State laws. They may have some counties available, but I don’t think any of the muni codes are there.
With the advent of the internet, there are a lot of these codes online now, but not nearly all of them.
http://www.findlaw.com is a good general-purpose legal reference site to start you off on your way.
The annotated code of most states fills three or four book shelves. Take out the annotations, abrogated sections and what not and you’d still probably have five to ten volumes per state. No clue about federal laws, and local laws probably run the gamut from three xeroxed pages (East Podunk) to more than most states (NYC and others). Maybe all the laws would fit on several CD’s–I don’t know–but it would probably take more than a few.
As to the last question, I suppose it’s more appropriate for GD (although I’d rather take it up in the Pit). Obviously, and especially in a democracy, a law-abiding citizen should be able to look up the laws and understand what they mean without having to see a lawyer.
Notice which profession makes up a plurality if not a majority of most legislatures? And which profession benefits if the common Joe can’t make heads or tails of the law? [sub]Can anyone say “monopoly” and “barriers to entry”?[/sub]
you couldn’t buy it in a bookstore, it would be larger than the bookstore.
And that doesn’t even get us to the regs…
In NY, you can buy books containing particular portions of the law ( for example, one book might contain the Penal Law and Criminla procedure law, while another contains the Vehicle and Traffic Law) You’d never fit all the laws of even a single state into one book .(bad part about books- you need to get either a new one or an update every year)
Remember that when you buy your set of the United States Code, you will have to make it a subscription so you can insert the updates into it. Congress has a nasty habit of passing new laws that changes the sections of the United States Code.
You might also want to get a subscription to the Code of Federal Regulations while you’re at it.
If you want to keep up to date, nothing beats the excitement of Statutes at Large or the Federal Register. Some of those Federal Register regulations are real page turners.
Findlaw, linked to above, allows you to search the entire US Code (all laws passed by Congress) and the Code of Federal Regulations (laws passed by executive departments), as well as the Federal Register (contains laws and proposals that have not yet made it into the other two). They also have a good selection of state laws. For Massachusetts (my home state), they have the state constitution, general laws, and regulations for three state agencies. I’d say it’s about as comprehensive a resource as you’ll find anywhere.