The Code of Virginia is a compilation of the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia that is arranged alphabetically by subject, with each subject heading being referred to as a “title.”
Code titles are the first level of organization for the Code of Virginia. Code titles are organized alphabetically by subject and numbered sequentially. Titles are numbered from Title 1 to Title 67.
Each title is divided by subject area into chapters, and some chapters are further divided into articles (see next). Chapter names provide a general idea about the subject matter of the sections contained in the chapter. Sometimes the chapter name describes an Act of Assembly, for example, the "Condominium Act." Acts of Assembly that are referred to by their short name, such as the "Condominium Act," are listed in the link Popular Names, found on the left sidebar.
Each chapter can be subdivided into ranges of sections, i.e. Articles. In Title 55, Property and Conveyances, Chapter 13.2, the Va. Residential Landlord and Tenant Act has sections subdivided into 6 ranges of articles with an average of about 15 sections contained within each article. Articles are simply numbered and referred to as Article 1, or 2, etc...
The Acts of Assembly are all the bills passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor during a particular legislative session. A bill might contain not only the law but also other special provisions for that bill. The Acts of Assembly include both codified and uncodified bills. A codified bill amends, repeals, or adds a section to the Code and is considered permanent. An uncodified bill contains a law that is not given a Code section number and may be of limited duration or effect. For example, the budget, claims bills, charter bills, bills of strictly local application, or miscellaneous bills are designated as a "§ 1", or uncodified bill.
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 § 55-1, referring to Title 55, Section 1. Another example is § 55-248.7, which is one of the laws that make up the Va. Residential Landlord and Tenant 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. A complex code reference, e.g. § 23-91.29:1, refers to Section 91.29:1 of Title 23.
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 very bottom of the legislation. The VA Code on our site is updated every July 1, and contains even the sections that have effective dates after July 1.
The Code of Virginia has cross references to the legislation / Acts of Assembly Chapters that amend it back to 1994. If you need to find older legislation you can 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 which is listed at the bottom of each section. Take the following code section history as an example. This section was first implemented in 1950 and it has changed 8 times, 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.
The Code of Virginia online database excludes material copyrighted by the publisher. Copyrighted material includes annotations and editor's notes, which may be found in the print version of the Code of Virginia.
The notation c. stands for Chapter, a Chapter in the Acts of Assembly for that year. When a House or Senate bill passes the Legislature, that bill becomes a Chapter, by sequence of passage, in the Acts of Assembly for that year. For example, the very first bill that passes, no matter if it is a House or Senate bill, would become Chapter 1 of the Acts of Assembly for that year.
The Virginia Code Commission finds that sometimes code sections assigned are not of such a general and permanent nature as to warrant inclusion in the Code. Most common among these are acts applicable only to certain named cities or counties. The Commission has usually not codified such acts, but has set out the assigned section number, followed by the words "not set out". Within a bound (book version) supplement or replacement volume of the Code of Virginia the Code Commission has a note stating the provenance and subject of the section which has been described as "not set out."