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Georgia Legal Research

Overview

Statutory law refers to laws passed by a legislative body. Typical examples include acts passed by the state legislature, as well as local ordinances passed by a county or municipality. Researchers most often research statutory law by using statutory codes or codes of ordinances. These codes include only the statutory laws currently in force, organized by topic.

The facts and circumstances of a legal issue will determine whether you need to research state statutory codes or local codes of ordinances. The resources below provide information on locating state and local statutory law. 

Legislative Process

Article III, Section I, Paragraph I of the Georgia Constitution vests legislative power in the General Assembly. Members of the General Assembly work with interested parties to take ideas for laws and introduce them as bills or resolutions. Only members of the General Assembly can introduce legislation. Pursuant to Ga. Const. art. III, § IV, para. I, the Georgia General Assembly meets for no more than forty legislative days every year

A bill becomes law once identical language of the bill pass both the House and the Senate, and is signed by the Governor.  Once signed by the Governor, the bill becomes known as an act or a statute. Acts are published in Georgia Laws, which includes all of the acts and resolutions passed during an assembly session. In addition to publication in Georgia Laws, acts of general statewide application are integrated into the two statutory codes: Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) or West’s Code of Georgia Annotated (Ga. Code Ann.).

For more information on the legislative process, consult the following book or the Georgia General Assembly's Legislation webpage

Current Georgia Codes

Georgia’s two current print statutory codes are the LexisNexis published Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.), and the Thomson West published West’s Code of Georgia Annotated (Ga. Code Ann).

Georgia had several statutory codes prior to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated and West's Code of Georgia Annotated, most notably the Harrison Company’s annotated version of the Code of 1933, titled Georgia Code Annotated. However, in 1976 the Code Revision Study Committee recommended a complete revision of the code. The legislature contracted with the Michie Company, which LexisNexis later acquired, to work with the state in preparing a new official code. During a special session in 1981, the Georgia General Assembly adopted the results of this effort, the Official Code of Georgia Annotated.  This code became effective on November 1, 1982.

While published by competing companies, both of the current codes provide the text of statutes and uniform laws currently in force. Both codes are also annotated, meaning users will find references to secondary sources that cite the code sections, as well as cases that cite, discuss, or explain the code sections. It should be noted that there will be some differences in the annotations provided by each code because they are compiled by different editors.

While the text of the law is the same in each code, only the O.C.G.A. has been deemed an official version of the law by the Georgia General Assembly. Therefore, when citing a code section, researchers must always cite to the O.C.G.A. using the following citation format: O.C.G.A. § 1-3-1 (year).

Locating a Code Section

Both the Official Code of Georgia Annotated and West's Code of Georgia Annotated organize the code sections under the same three number citation system. Statutes in the codes are organized by title, chapter, and section. The title represents the major subject area, the chapter a subtopic, and the section represents the actual text of the law. 

For example, O.C.G.A. § 9-4-6 (year) refers to title 9, chapter 4, section 6 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated. To access this code section in print, you would locate the volume of the O.C.G.A. that covers title 9 and chapter 4, and then turn in the book to where the text of 9-4-6 begins. Code sections are arranged within a title in chronological order. Because both codes utilize the same three number citation system, the text of O.C.G.A. § 9-4-6 is the same as Ga. Code Ann. § 9-4-6.

Converting Historical Code Citations

When researching Georgia cases, you may come across cases published prior to the enactment of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated. These cases will cite to previous versions of the Georgia code, most commonly the Harrison's Georgia Code Annotated (Code of 1933). The Harrison code utilized a two number citation system (81A-101), instead of the three number system (9-11-1) used by the current Georgia codes.

The Tables volume of the O.C.G.A. allows you to convert citations that use the two number citation system (labeled 1933 Code) to the current three number citation system (labeled 1981 Code). The conversion tables provided in the Tables volume of the O.C.G.A. are only available in the print version of the O.C.G.A., and are not available online or in the West's Code of Georgia Annotated.

Online Sources of the Georgia Code

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Session Laws

Unlike statutory codes, which only include the laws currently in force, session laws serve as a collection of all of the laws passed by the legislature. In Georgia, the acts and resolutions passed by the General Assembly are published in Georgia Laws. 

Each edition of Georgia Laws includes all of the acts and resolutions enacted during a particular session of the Georgia General Assembly. For example, the 1996 edition of Georgia Laws includes the acts and resolutions passed during the 1996 session of the General Assembly. 

The contents of Georgia Laws is currently organized across three volumes. Volume I includes the text of the general acts and resolutions enacted into law. Volume II contains local and special laws enacted into law. Volume III includes a variety of useful tools, such as indexes and tables. Prior to the 1995 edition of Georgia Laws, the indexes and tables located in Volume III were duplicated and placed at the back of Volumes I and II. 

Locating a Session Law

Researchers can locate acts or resolutions in Georgia Laws using three methods. 

Method 1: Locate by Citation

Most often, you will be looking for an act or resolution in conjunction with researching a statutory code section. A statutory code section will list the citations for the acts that enacted and amended the code section after the text of the law. Depending on which source you use to access the Georgia code, a citation to Georgia Laws will appear as either "Ga. L. 1960, p.289, § 1” or “Laws 1960, p. 289, § 1.”

The correct citation for Georgia Laws is 1960 Ga. Laws 289, § 1. Using this citation, researchers would locate the appropriate edition of Georgia Laws, the 1960 edition, and then turn to page 289, which would be the first page of the act. In the example here, the text of the act that corresponds to the statutory section would be in § 1 of the act. 

Method 2: Locate by Topic

If you do not have the citation for an act in Georgia Laws, you can locate the text of the act in print if you know the year the General Assembly passed the act. You would locate the edition for the corresponding session, and then use the indexes for that volume to locate the act by topic. 

Method 3: Locate by Keywords

If you do not possess the citation or the year the law was passed, you can use an online source to search for the act by keywords.

Online Sources for Session Laws

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Local Laws & Ordinances

Because counties and municipalities are creations of the state, they do not have the power to create their own laws. Nevertheless, the Georgia Constitution provides for a level of "home rule" for counties and local municipalities, which allows them to create ordinances, resolutions, and regulations.

When researching local laws, researchers should consult the local laws passed by the General Assembly, as well as those created by the local governments.

Local Laws - Georgia General Assembly

Local laws passed by the Georgia General Assembly are located in Volume II of Georgia Laws.

If you know which session of the General Assembly a local law was enacted during, you can locate that session's corresponding edition of Georgia Laws, and then use the indexes for that edition to locate the laws for a particular local government.

If you don't know which session of the General Assembly a local law was enacted during, or you would like to see a listing of all of the laws enacted for that local government, you will need to use the Index to Local and Special Laws. The Index to Local and Special Laws is organized alphabetically, and provides researchers with the Georgia Laws citations for local laws pertaining to a specific local government, including citations for subsequent amendments.

The Index to Local and Special Laws is only available in Volumes 42 and 42A of the print edition of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated.

Local Codes of Ordinances

Similar to statutory codes, codes of ordinances include only the local ordinances currently in force, organized by topic. Codes of ordnances can exist at the county and municipality level. Researchers can find code of ordinances for Georgia local governments using the following resources:

When researching Georgia codes of ordinances, make sure to also consult the local laws passed by the General Assembly. Some local governments will include the local laws passed by the General Assembly in their codes of ordinances, while others may only cite to the session laws. 

Additionally, there may be some instances were a local code of ordinances is not available through any of the resources above. In those situations, you will need to contact the local government office.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions of the authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the State of Georgia, and shall not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes. Georgia State University College of Law and the authors of the works contained on this website do not assume or accept any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, currentness, or comprehensiveness of the content on this website. The content on this website does not in any manner constitute the issuance of legal advice or counsel. The information on this website is intended to provide resources that may aid the research of the topics presented, and are in no way a comprehensive list of sources one should consult on the topics presented. Please note that case law, statutory law, and administrative law may be modified and/or overturned. Additionally, because the laws vary between jurisdictions, the laws referred to herein may or may not be applicable to the law within the reader’s jurisdiction.