Code of Virginia FAQs

What is the Code of Virginia, and who is responsible for publishing it?

The Code of Virginia contains the general and permanent laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia that have been passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor.

Under § 30-148, the Virginia Code Commission is charged with arranging for the codification and incorporation into the Code of Virginia of all general and permanent statutes.

How do I find a law in the online Code of Virginia if I don't know the section number?

Use the search feature of the online Code on the main page at http://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode. Search by key words or phrases, the popular name (e.g., Freedom of Information Act), or view the table of contents, which has all the Code titles with links to the chapters and sections.

What are Code titles?

Code titles are the first level of organization for the Code of Virginia. Code titles are organized alphabetically by subject and numbered sequentially. The Code of Virginia is organized into 76 titles, numbered from Title 1 to Title 67.

What are Code chapters?

Each title is divided by subject area into chapters, and some chapters are further divided into articles. Chapter names give you a general idea about the subject matter of the sections contained in the chapter. Sometimes the chapter name can be the name of the Act of Assembly that created the chapter, like the "Scenic River Act." Chapters within each title are also numbered, but the chapter number is not used in the numbering system for the sections (or individual laws) of the Code.

What is a Code section, and how is it referenced?

Sections, or laws, are the fundamental building blocks of the Code of Virginia. Sections are designated by the symbol "§," followed by the title number, a dash, and the section number. For example, a simple code section reference would be § 1-1, referring to Title 1, Section 1. Another example is § 2.2-3704, which is one of the laws that make up the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

Code title numbers appear in a variety of formats, such as 1, 2.2, 8.01, or 8.1A. Section numbers can range into the thousands, and some have decimal-points and colons. The organizational framework for the Code was adopted in 1950 and has resulted in some complex code references. An example of a complex code reference is § 45.1-161.311:1, referring to Section 161.311:1 of Title 45.1.

For titles revised after 1982, most section numbers include the chapter number reference in the Code section. For example, § 6.2-500 is the first section in Chapter 5 of Title 6.2 and § 54.1-4413.5 is located in Chapter 44 of Title 54.1.

What are the Acts of Assembly?

The Acts of Assembly are bills passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor during a particular legislative session. The Acts of Assembly include both codified and uncodified laws. A codified law amends, repeals, or adds a section to the Code and is generally of a permanent nature and of general application to citizens of the Commonwealth. An uncodified law is not given a Code section number and may be of limited duration or effect. For example, the state budget, claims bills, charter bills, bills of strictly local application, or miscellaneous bills are designated as "Section 1" bills.

Are all laws passed by the General Assembly in the Code of Virginia?

Not all laws passed by the General Assembly are included in the Code of Virginia. Generally, Section 1 bills and other enactments that do not have a Code section number are not included in the Code. However, sometimes when it is determined that these provisions have general and permanent application, the Virginia Code Commission will assign a Code section number to these provisions so they are included in the Code.

What laws are missing from the Code, and where can I find them?

Laws that are not permanent and of a general application (e.g., are limited in duration or have only local or regional application) may be excluded from the Code. Such bills are often enacted without a Code section number (referred to as "Section 1" bills).

You can find uncodified Acts of Assembly, by year, on the Virginia Law Portal at http://law.lis.virginia.gov/uncodifiedacts.

What does "Not Set Out" mean in the Code of Virginia?

The general policy has been to exclude from the Code the full text of sections determined not to be general and permanent in nature; however, the Virginia Code Commission is steering away from this practice. Most "not set out" sections currently found in the Code were designated as such 10 or more years ago and consist of (i) legislative findings, purpose, intent, and policy statements; (ii) provisions with local applicability only; and (iii) property tax exemptions for various individually designated organizations.

What other changes does the Virginia Code Commission make to the Code of Virginia?

Under § 30-149, the Virginia Code Commission may correct printer's errors and misspellings; may renumber, rename, and rearrange Code of Virginia titles, chapters, articles, and sections in statutes adopted; correct unmistakable errors and correct cross references; and may omit from the statutes incorporated into the Code of Virginia provisions that, in the judgment of the Commission, are inappropriate in a code, such as emergency clauses, clauses providing for specific nonrecurring appropriations, and general repealing clauses. 

For more information on the Virginia Code Commission's editing responsibilities in publishing the Code of Virginia, go to http://codecommission.dls.virginia.gov/code-of-virginia-codification-policies.shtml.

When is the Code of Virginia updated?

Bills that pass during a General Assembly session are effective on July 1 of that session year. Sometimes they may have a different effective date than July 1 and if they do, the date is written in an enactment clause at the end of the legislation. The Virginia Code of Virginia as presented on the Virginia Law Portal is updated July 1 of each year and includes amendments to the Code through the General Assembly session of that year. even the sections that have effective dates after July 1.

Where can I find a print copy of the Code of Virginia?

Print copies of the Code of Virginia are available in most Virginia public library systems (http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/libraries.asp). The Code of Virginia is not copyrighted material; however, the print volumes contain copyrighted material such as annotations and case histories.

Why doesn't the online Code of Virginia have annotations?

The Code of Virginia online database excludes material copyrighted by the publisher. Copyrighted material includes annotations and editors' notes, which may be found in the print version of the Code of Virginia.

How can I see the history of a particular Code section?

The Code of Virginia has links to the legislation (i.e., Acts of Assembly chapters) that amends it beginning in 1994. To find older legislation, call or visit a local law or public library and ask for the Acts of Assembly for the particular year you are researching. For example, if the reference is to Code 1968, c. 477, you would ask for the Virginia Acts of Assembly for 1968, and look for Chapter 477.

You can check when a Code section was implemented or amended by checking the section's history listed at the bottom of each section. See the following code section history as an example. This section was first implemented in 1950 and has been amended during seven sessions of the General Assembly, as noted by the years indicated, since 1950.

Code 1950, § 37-145; 1950, p. 923; 1968, c. 477, § 37.1-137; 1971, Ex. Sess., c. 155; 1976, c. 671; 1997, c. 921, § 37.1-134.19; 1998, c. 787; 2005, cc. 712, 716, § 37.2-1015; 2012, cc. 614, 803, 835.

What does (c. #) mean in a Code section history reference?

The notation c. stands for chapter, specifically a chapter in the Acts of Assembly for that year. When a House or Senate bill passes the General Assembly, that bill becomes a chapter, by sequence of passage, in the Acts of Assembly for that year. For example, the first bill that passes, whether it is a House or Senate bill, becomes Chapter 1 of the Acts of Assembly for that session year.