Free Legal Research Resources
In the United States, there are several parallel legal systems that define the laws that apply. Local, State and Federal legislators each set forth their own definition of laws that apply to their jurisdictions. Each system has a set of lower courts where trials and hearings are conducted along with appellate court systems to hear appeals to lower court rulings.
Every legislative body has a system of creating laws in the form of statutes that apply along with administrative agencies that are responsible for specialized regulations. The rules for bringing a criminal action or lawsuit can vary between state, federal and local jurisdicstions.
Where are laws defined?
- The U.S. Constitution defines the basic principals and rights of all citizens.
- State constitutions, such as the California Constitution, define the rights of citizens in each state.
- Administrative regulations are created by Federal, State or Local agencies charged by congress and State legislatures with the responsibility to regulate industries and government programs. Regulations are very similar to statutes, but they are created and published differently.
- Case law (or "common law") is a set of past rulings or judicial decisions from appellate courts, courts of the first instance, or regulatory agency resposnible for resolving the applicable application of law. Appellate rulings clarify statutes, clarify prior decisions and redefine existing laws.
How to Use This Guide
This guide is a selected list of the best free online legal resources. If you don't have access to paid legal resources, these free resources can be a great way to start your research and educate yourself.
Also included are links to Chudnovsky Law lawyer practice area pages in English, Spanish and French that provide good examples of practical attorney information by area of law including: criminal defense, personal injury, DUI defense and criminal defense of foreign citizens.
You can find additional legal research resources at:
About the Author
Ronald C. Tyler is a Stanford Law School Professor of Law and Director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at Stanford Law School. Before joining the Stanford Law School faculty, Professor Tyler was an Assistant Federal Public Defender for 22 years in the Northern District of California. A dedicated defense attorney and nationally recognized expert, he has litigated at trial and appellate courts covering the full gamut of federal criminal cases. He teaches regularly at seminars for criminal defense attorneys, investigators and paralegals.