"I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same..."
from the Oath of Allegiance
Every American citizen should have some familiarity with the Constitution. After all, it’s the supreme law of the land and gives us all our fundamental rights as human beings and as Americans. Even if you just become familiar with the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments) you will gain some insight into the power this document has in shaping our government, our laws, and our own lives. The principles of equality, individual rights, fairness, due process, and democracy are inscribed in our great Constitution.
We, at newcitizen.us, want to make sure you have both easy access to and complete, comprehensive information on our Constitution. To this end we have listed, what we believe, are the five most important websites related to the Constitution. We suggest you review all five and bookmark your favorites:
The Constitution, Analysis and Interpretation
FindLaw, U.S. Constitution with Annotations
The United States Constitution Online National Constitution Center
National Center for Constitutional Studies
We are a country of laws. There are hundreds of thousands if not millions of laws at the federal, state, county, and local levels. America has more lawyers per person than any other country in the world—no wonder, we have all these laws to deal with!
One of the wonderful and empowering abilities of the internet is that many of these laws are now made available to you, the ordinary citizen, without having to visit a law library or ask a lawyer. The old adage that “ignorance of the law is no excuse” is starting to gain some credibility again with the evolution of the internet.
We are limiting are discussion to federal laws, but we encourage you to visit the websites of your state and local governments so you can also bookmark their legal websites.
Laws Versus Regulations
What you need to understand about United States law is that there are laws, and there are regulations.
Laws are passed by the legislative branch, Congress, and signed into law by the President. All the laws that Congress passes and the President signs become slip laws initially and are published in the Federal Register. More importantly, all the laws that are passed eventually end up in the United States Code (USC). The USC is a collection of all the general and permanent laws of the United States. This makes it relatively easy for us non-lawyer types to find all federal laws because the USC offers one-stop shopping.
Regulations are the executive branch’s interpretation and implementation of federal laws. They are written by the various federal government agencies like the USCIS, State Department, and Treasury Department. Regulations are not laws. Violating a regulation does not necessarily mean mean you are violating a law. Regulations when they are first written are also found in the Federal Register. Eventually, all regulations make their way into the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) which is one-stop shopping when it comes to federal regulations.
For each law found in the United States Code, there is usually (but not always) a corresponding regulation found in the Code of Federal Regualations. So if you are searching for a law in the USC, make sure you also look for the corresponding regulation in the CFR and vice versa.
Now that you understand the difference between laws and regulations, the websites for the United States Code, the Federal Register, and the Code of Federal Regulations will make a little more sense.
Links to the United States Code: Internet based Text based
Links to the Federal Register and Code of Federal Regulations: Internet based Text based
How Ours Laws are Made This is an excellent summary of the legislative process, which would be of interest to any inquiring citizen or aspiring political activist.