When citing federal laws, statutes or acts, it is important to include the name of the law, title and section of the code in the APA law citation style. Since the existing legal references are written in legal style, they don’t require changes when listing them in the reference list entry. Here’s everything you need to know when modifying APA law citation.
Definition: APA law citation
Legal materials are usually cited using the Bluebook style, the standard legal citation used in all disciplines. APA law citation also defers to the Bluebook style for legal materials and relies on the templates and formats in bibliographies.1 Cases and court decisions include the following elements relevant to APA law citation:
- Name of the case or title: For example, Plessy v. Ferguson
- Citation: It indicates the volume and page of reporters or books where case decisions are published.
- Jurisdiction of the court: It is usually included in parentheses, for example, the US Supreme Court or Court of Appeals.
- The date: It is added in the same parentheses as jurisdiction and shows the date the court decision was made.
- URL: It aids in finding the source, but it’s optional.
|APA Format:||Title of the law or name of the case, title number U.S.C (United States Code) § section number (Year). URL|
|APA reference entry:||Alcohol and Narcotics Act, 19 U.S.C. § 1701(1960). http://https//www.loc.gov/item/uscode1958-004019005/|
|APA in-text citation:||(Alcohol and Narcotics Act, 1960)|
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APA law citation: Symbols and abbreviations
Law compilations and the United States Code are divided into parts and sections. While no symbol is used in the title or case name in your reference, the section number is preceded by a section symbol (§). Creating a section symbol in a Word document requires the following steps: 2
- Click on the ‘Insert’ tab on your screen.
- When the insert ribbon appears, click the ‘Symbols’ button and select the ‘More Symbols’
- Select the ‘Special Character’ tab, where you will find a Section symbol.
When a law you are referencing is spread across multiple sections, you add the term ‘et seq,’ a Latin word for ‘and following’. You add ‘et seq’ after the initial section number. In APA law citation, the term is written in italics, followed by a period.
APA law citation: Public law number
Some laws have a public law number, which isn’t used in APA law citation except in special instances. For instance, you can use the public law number when the law is spread across non-consecutive sections or is not included in the United States Code.
Laws not included in the U.S.C.
When a law has not been published in the United States Code, you should cite it using the public law number and provide information on where it was published.
The law example below is published in the United States Statutes, abbreviated as ‘Stat.’
Laws spread across different sections
If a law or statute is codified for diverse sections of the U.S.C., you can cite it in APA law citation using a public law number. It is important to include the location of the sections in the Statutes at Large.
In the example below, the law was codified in titles 3, 25 and 52 of the code. Hence, it is cited using the public law number.
|Laws not included in the U.S.C.||Laws spread across different sections|
|APA Format:||Title of the Law, Pub. L. No. number, volume number- source page number (Year). URL||Title of the law, Pub. L. No. number, volume number, source page number (Year). URL|
|APA reference entry:||Fair Pay Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 123-5. 203 Stat. 5 (2001).||Civil Rights Act of 1982, Pub. L. No. 35-78, 89 Stat. 241(1982).|
|APA in-text citation:||(Fair Pay Act, 2001)||(Civil Rights Act, 1964)|
APA law citation: Citing state laws
The laws and statutes of individual states in the US are cited in a similar manner as federal laws using the APA law citation. The only exception is that the U.S.C. code is replaced with the state’s law code. Some state codes use chapter numbers and articles instead of section numbers. Hence, adapting the APA law citation to the state’s standards is essential. For example, Virginia uses the following format:
|APA Format:||Title of the law, title number source § section number (Year). URL|
|APA reference entry:||Civil Rights Acts, Va. Code Ann. § 2. 3-3200(2020).|
|APA in-text citation:||(Civil Rights Acts, 2020)|
Adding a URL to your APA law citation is optional in reference entries. However, you can add them to aid the reader in finding the source.
In APA law citation, you need to cite all publications reporting cases in which the court case appears. You can cite all the publications by separating them with commas in the reference entry.
When a court case doesn’t have a specific page number, use three underscores in the place where the page number would appear.
1 Purdue Online Writing Lab. “Legal References.” Purdue University. Accessed January 10, 2023. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_formatting_and_style_guide/apa_legal%20references%20.html.
2 Downing, Nicole M. “Inserting the Section Symbol in a Word Document.” UNC. February 26, 2020. http://blogs.law.unc.edu/library/2020/02/26/inserting-the-section-symbol-in-a-word-document/.