Finding a detailed history of the California Penal Code
March 12, 2013 2:27 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to find out how to find out when a particular item was added to the California Penal Code. In this particular case I'm interested in 12028.5, but I'd like to understand how to find such information in the future.
posted by Tell Me No Lies to Law & Government (3 answers total)
Response by poster: (as far as I can see the state legislature only has bills back to 1993 online and I know that one was on the books at least as far back as 1987)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:28 PM on March 12, 2013

Best answer: You're on the right track with looking into the legislative acts that effected the various statutes, but flipping through the Assembly bills themselves is going to take you for-EVER. You could pursue the published "Legislative History" directly, as described in this guide from Berkeley: "Finding California Legislative History." [On preview: this is a very good guide after you've managed to access the annotated code; keep reading...]

As noted therein, you'll likely want to start with the annotations in the legislative code itself, which is generally provided in the commercially published collections and NOT in the code that is published on the various California state websites. What you're looking for is the "Annotated California Code" collection, specifically the volumes addressing the Penal Code. Most law libraries in California should have a copy of this. If you live near one of the public law schools (Berkeley, UCLA, Hastings, Davis), they might provide access to ordinary non-student citizens, or you might be able to purchase a membership or something. Most county courthouses have a law library either on-site or within a couple blocks; if you say where you're located, perhaps someone here can guide you to one (and they are especially likely to have materials focusing on the criminal codes). If you are out of state, you probably have to go to a major school's law library to stand any chance of accessing a full set of Annotated California Codes.

You can probably also get to them through either Lexis or WestLaw (I know that West publishes the Annotated Code, for instance, so it must be on their service), but I am not familiar with accessing those resources one-off without an attorney membership. There is a chance that a public research library in your area would be able to set you up with these services if you go in and ask.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 2:46 PM on March 12, 2013

Head to your local library, they often have online access to Lexis Nexis and/or WestLaw. Also, your local bar association for your county is likely to have a free-to-the-public law library where you can look this up.
posted by Brian Puccio at 3:05 PM on March 12, 2013

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