General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionBest of ABA Sections
Legal Research on the Internet: Criminal Law Resources
There is one constant on the Internet—it is always changing. Information is continually being added, deleted, and updated by the people who use it, from the private citizen to government agencies.
There are many legal resources on the Internet on both the federal and state level. For recent statutes, case law, agency information, and law review articles, it is a virtual treasure trove (pun intended). There is, however, a caveat: relying solely on the Internet for legal research is not recommended. Many individuals put information on the Internet, and although government-sponsored Web pages and those maintained by large legal reference providers are properly funded and managed, other Web sites may not have the resources to update regularly. In addition, because the Internet is relatively new, it is unlikely that you will find information that goes back further than five years. For these reasons, it is wise to consider the Internet a good supplemental tool that may save some of the expense of a general legal reference provider such as WestLaw or LEXIS. (The Internet is now utilized by both.)
E-mail Forums: E-mail forums or List Serves abound on the Internet and allow you to chat with others in the legal community worldwide. To get the List Serve address and subscribing instructions to the various law lists, try the compilation maintained by Lyonette Louis-Jaques, foreign and international law librarian and lecturer in law at the University of Chicago: firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/law-lists/. Using the phrase "criminal law," I found CRIMPROF@chicagokent.kentlaw.edu (criminal law/procedure professors) and DeathPenalty@assocdir. wuacc.edu (death penalty/capital punishment).
What follows is a general listing of legal reference of interest to those in criminal law.
Cecil Greek’s Criminal Justice page is "rated among the top 5 percent of all sites on the Internet by Point Survey." The page is divided into federal criminal justice agency links; international criminal justice resources; agencies providing criminal justice information; crime and crime prevention pages (including criminal violence; crime prevention, and victims’ organizations; militia, cults, bombers, arsonists, and federal responses; property, white collar and computer crimes; prostitution, pornography, and Satanic crime; abnormal behavior); juvenile delinquency sites; drug and alcohol pages; police agencies and resources; civil liberties, due process and the courts; obscenity, censorship, and the Communications Decency Act; prisons, the death penalty, and community corrections; searchable law sites; other law resources; criminal justice education; on-line criminal justice discussion groups and e-journals (electronic journals); criminal justice images and illustrations; criminal justice and the media; criminal justice photos; and, O.J. photos.
This page covers the United States Code and contains laws enforced as of January 26, 1994. It allows several ways to search, such as code headings, title listings, table of popular names, by citation, and full-text search of the code.
This site links to recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions (1990–1996), which are searchable. When the Court is in session, it is updated daily. Also included are 325 selected historic decisions in folio format (searchable).
• http:/thomas/loc.gov/ (U.S. government resource)
This site includes the Congressional Record and Index, text, bill summary and status, hot bills, and the U.S. Constitution and Code. Enhancements in data and search and display capabilities have been added for each database since 1995. It is updated daily when Congress is in session.
This site offers several indexes including FindLaw Internet Legal Resources, Law Reviews Search & Services, and LawCrawler WWW Search. FindLaw homepage links are divided into law source categories for a narrower search. You can access the official federal circuit court sites from this page. It includes searchable and downloadable decisions for the last two years.
EDGAR stands for Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system, which performs various duties related to the registration and licensing of all those who are required by law to file forms with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Filings are posted to this site twenty-four hours after the date of filing. This is a searchable database with links to form definitions, data documentation, news pertaining to EDGAR, and other general information.
• http://www.ljx.com/ (maintained by Law Journal Extra!)
This page has sites for the top legal stories with links to legal news, law jobs, legal marketplace (legal advertisements), law firms on-line, practice areas, circuit and Supreme Court decisions, and an archive of the National Law Journal articles and columns.
The WestDoc service enables you to retrieve state and federal cases instantly from the largest case law source on the Internet. There are no subscription fees with WestDoc and no need to install special software. Each case viewed is $8, billed to your credit card. (The service uses an encryption device to protect against fraudulent use of your number; however, there are those who feel it is never safe to give out your credit card number over the Internet.)
Updated daily, this homepage is maintained by the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy, providing links to related news pages offered by the National Law Journal, Cornell Legal Information Institute, West Publishing, and Lawyer’s Weekly. Some of the recent links added to this page include Vital Records, Social Security Death Index, CenStats (U.S. Census Bureau Electronic Subscription Service), full-text state statutes (United States), Project Argonaut, and GPO Pathway Services.
LawTalk is a service provided by Indiana University. Each segment is authored by a faculty member. Links include topics such as child abuse, felonies and misdemeanors, capital trials, double jeopardy, death penalty, being arrested, executions, being called as a witness, and execution delays.
Here you will find specialized links and general indices to California law and U.S. law. This site also provides links to other related sites pertaining to criminal law, such as Cornell Legal Institute, Yahoo Criminal Law Index (a highly useful service), and the Internet Law Library.
This Cornell Law School page is grouped by source material, federal agencies, other references that include key Internet sources, and useful offnet (or subscription) sources.
This page is sponsored by the National Law Journal and will link to departments and other sites, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Forensic Science Web Server, NIDA, and National Archive of Criminal Justice Data, and links to the United Nations, New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, NYPD, and criminal law sites in the United Kingdom/Britain.
Sponsored by Kent Law School in Britain, this page introduces Internet sources that will provide information on international criminal law.
The Legal Survival Guide is a service provided by Court TV Law Center. This particular page is a brief description of what constitutes a crime covering petty offenses, misdemeanors, and felonies.
Bonnie Hill is the librarian for the Utah State Attorney General’s Office.
This article is an abridged and edited version of one that originally appeared in Criminal Justice, Spring 1997 (12:1).