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Criminal Justice

Guide to library resources in criminal justice.

Citing Legal Sources in APA Style

In Text Citations

Any time a law or a court case is mentioned in the text of a paper, include an appropriate “in-text citation”  (usually in parentheses). For court cases, that includes the main party names as well as the year – e.g. (Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965). For laws (statutes), the preferred form includes the name of the law and the year – e.g. (Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974). The APA style manual indicates anything cited in the text should also have a complete listing in the References list.

Court cases:

(Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965)

For court cases, in the text include party name v. party name and the year.

Statutes (named):

(Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974)

For statutes (bills passed by Congress or a state legislature and signed into law), in the text list the name of the law and the year. The name of the law can sometimes be found at the beginning of the bill as signed into a law and/or the beginning of the appropriate section of the codified version.

Statutes (no name):

(18 U.S.C. § 2258)

It is not always possible to find the name of a law, especially if the citation is to the codified version (published in the U.S. Code or one of the California / state codes). To cite existing law without a name, often a section of the USC or a California code, some authors simply include the legal citation in the text, e.g. (18 U.S.C. § 2258), and omit the entry from the References list.


Party v. Party, Legal Citation (Court abbreviation year)

Example Entries:

Christopher S. v. Stanislaus County Office of Education, 384 F.3d 1205 (9th Cir., 2004)
Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965)
People v. Stockton Pregnancy Control Medical Clinic, 203 Cal. App. 3d 225 (Cal. App. 3d 1988)
Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California, 131 Cal. Rptr. 14 (Cal. 1976)

Legal Citation for a court case = volume # Reporter Abbreviation page number

384 = volume 384
F.3d = Federal Supplement 3rd Series
225 = page 225

Reporters and Legal Citations:


Federal and state supreme and appellate court decisions are usually gathered from the official court releases, and reprinted in commercial sources known as "reporters."  Each reporter will provide a "legal citation" to a case, which usually includes a volume or year, reporter abbreviation, and a page number.

140 P. 3d 775  - California supreme court case republished in the 3rd series of the Pacific Reporter (P. 3d), in volume 140 and starting on page 775.



Issuing Court: 
Abbreviation for court that issued ruling (Skip this if you are unable to find the abbreviation, but be sure to include the year.)

U.S. Supreme Court = U.S.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the nth Circuit = 1st Cir., 2nd Cir., etc.
U.S. District Court for California

Central District of California C.D. Cal.
Eastern District of California E.D. Cal.
Northern District of California N.D. Cal.
Southern District of California S.D. Cal. 

Party v. Party, Legal Citation (Issuing Court Abbreviation year).


Party names are displayed at top of court opinion in LexisNexis. (In Lexis, if the list of party names is overly long, in the upper left screen under “Show” choose “List” to display “short” party names.)
Legal Citation = volume # Reporter Abbreviation starting page #
Issuing Court: Abbreviation for court that issued ruling (Skip this if you are unable to find the abbreviation, but be sure to include the year.)

Abbreviations for Issuing Courts in California:

California Supreme Court = Cal.
Court of Appeal of California, First Appellate District = Cal. 1d.
Court of Appeal of California, First Appellate District = Cal. 2d.
Court of Appeal of California, Third Appellate District = Cal. 3d.

Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974

If a formal name of the law is not available (you only have a U.S. Code citation), some authors only include a citation in the text only, e.g.:18 U.S.C. § 2258

Format 1 – (US Code only):
Name of law, title # U.S.C. § section #.
Example Entry:

Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974, 42 USC §§5101–5106.

Format 2 – (with Public Law and/or Statutes at Large information):
Name of law, Pub. L. ##-##, volume Stat. page, codified as amended at title U.S.C. § section #.
Example Entry:

Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974, Pub. L. 93-247, 88 Stat. 4, codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. §§5101–5106.

Format 1 - Code (usually preferred format, using citation to California Codes):
Name of law (if available), State Abbreviation Code Abbreviation § section number(s) (Year if available).
Example Entry:

Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act, Cal. Penal Code § 11164 et seq.

Format 2 – Bill/Chapter (use if new law updates many code sections instead of one):
Name of law, State Abbreviation Branch (Assemb. or S.) Bill number, Chapter number (Cal. Stat. Year).
Example Entry:

California Fostering Connections to Success Act, Cal. Assemb. B. 12 (2010-2011), Chapter 559 (Cal. Stat. 2010).

Reading a Legal Citation

Most legal citations consist of three parts: 

Volume number
Abbreviation of the name of the source
Page or section number ( § denotes section ).

For example, 163 U.S. 537 consists of the following:

163 = Volume #
 = United States Reports (source publication)
 = starting page

"Reporters" publish the opinions issued by a court in an ongoing series of volumes. While court cases are usually referenced by name (e.g. Roe vs. Wade), most legal materials also include a legal citation indicating where the decision is found in a specific reporter.

Example: 344 U.S. 1 cites the "Brown v. Board of Education" decision as published in the governments Supreme Court series, United States Reports.

Parallel Citations
Citations to the same law or opinion published in different sources are called parallel citations. Many legal citations include references to the same case published in several different sources. The first cite is usually considered the official or primary cite. The subsequent cites reference additional sources published by private companies which include additional editorial features. 

Example: Roe v. Wade (410 U.S. 113; 93 S. Ct. 705; 35 L. Ed. 2d 147)

Source Publication : Parallel Cite
United States Reports (U.S.) : 410 U.S. 113
Supreme Court Reporter (S.Ct.) : 93 S. Ct. 705
Lawyer's Edition (L.Ed.) : 35 L. Ed. 2d 147

Codes arrange all laws (e.g. statutes) or regulations by subject, and are cited by section (instead of page number). Section numbers are denoted by the § symbol.


34 CFR §300.300
Volume 34
Code of Federal Regulations
Section 300.300


20 USC §1400
Volume 20
United States Code
Section 1400

Common Legal Citations

This table defines U.S. Supreme Court citations.
Abbreviation Example Type Source
US 546 U.S. 189 U.S. Supreme Court opinions United States Reports

Sup. Ct.

127 S. Ct. 2738 U.S. Supreme Court opinions Supreme Court Reports


This table defines citations for other federal cases.
Abbreviation Example Type Source


F. 2d.

F. 3d.

22 F. 354 U.S. Appellate Court opinions

Federal Reporter

(2nd series)

(3rd series)

F. Supp.

F. Supp. 2d.

F. Supp. 3d.

246 F. Supp. 780 U.S. District Court opinions

Federal Supplement

(2nd series)

(3rd series)


This table defines citations for California cases.
Abbreviation Example Type Source


Cal. 2d.

39 Cal. 4th 970 California Supreme Court opinions

California Reports

(2nd series)


P. 2d.

140 P. 3d 775 State supreme court opinions - western states (including CA)

Pacific Reporter

(2nd series)

Cal. Rptr.

Cal. Rptr. 2d.

47 Cal. Rptr. 3d 467 California Supreme and Appellate Court opinions

California Reporter

(2nd series)

Cal. App.

Cal. App. 2d.

Cal. App. 3d.

Cal. App. 4th.

39 Cal. App. 4th 970 California Appellate Court opinions

California Appellate Reports

(2nd series)

(3rd series)

(4th series)


This table defines citations for federal statutes.
Abbreviation Example Type Source
USC 42 USC § 5106 Codified statutes United States Code
USCA 42 USCA § 5106 Codified statutes (with annotations) United States Code Annotated
Stat. 49 Stat. 153 Statutes as written when passed into law United States Statutes at large


This table defines citations for federal regulations.
Abbreviation Example Type Source
FR 49 FR 10395 Proposed or final new regulations Federal Register
CFR 8 CFR § 327.35 Codified regulations Code of Federal Regulations


This table defines citations for California statutes.
Abbreviation Example Type Source
Educ. Code Educ. Code § 3423 Codified Statutes California Codes
Cal. Edu. Code CAL Edu. Code § 3423 Codified Statutes with Annotations Deering's California Codes


This table defines citations for California regulations.
Abbreviation Example Type Source
Cal. Reg. Notice Register 2003 Cal. Reg. Notice Register 685 Proposed regulations California Regulatory Notice Register
CCR 8 CCR § 327.35 Codified regulations California Code of Regulations


This table defines citations for secondary sources.
Abbreviation Type Source
Cal. Jur. California law by topic California Jurisprudence
CJS Federal law by topic Corpus Juris Secundum
L. Rev. Law review article Harvard Law Review


APA Citation Style, 6th Edition

Text Citations
References are cited in text with an author-date citation system, while each item referenced in text must appear in the reference list (174).

One author: You are required to include the authors’ last names and year of publication, and encouraged to provide a page number where the information that is cited may be found. Ex: (Taylor & Green, 2004, p. 56)
No author: Abbreviate title. Ex:  (“Quest for Redemption,” 2007) 
Multiple authors:

2 authors: List both authors when you cite the work (175). Ex: (Wagner & Clarke, 1999)
3 to 5 authors: List all authors the first time you cite the work (175). Ex: (Kern, Cornwell, Jones, Berry, & Howard, 2003) In subsequent citations, list the first author followed by et al. Ex: (Kern et al., 2003)
6 or more authors: List the first author followed by et al. each time you cite the work (175). Ex: (Williams et al., 2007)

APA requires that the reference list be double-spaced and that entries have a hanging indent (180). 

Book (202): 

Author, A. A. (Year). Title: Subtitle. Location: Publisher. 


Berk, R. (1981). Water shortage: Lessons in conservation from the great California drought, 1976-1977. Cambridge, MA: Abt Books.


Web page (205): 

Author, A. A. (Year). Title: Subtitle. Retrieved from URL

Ex: ​

California Department of Fish and Game (2017). Coho Salmon. Retrieved from https://www.wildlife


Journal article from an online database with DOI (198): 

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Title of article. Title of PeriodicalVolume number(Issue number), Page numbers. doi: 


Hladik, M. L., Domaglski, J. L., & Kuivila, K. M. (2009). Concentrations and loads of suspended sediment-associated pesticides in the San Joaquin River, California and tributaries during storm events. Science of the Total Environment408(2),356-364. doi:/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2009.09.040

The general rule on the use of numbers is to use numerals to express numbers 10 and above and words to express numbers below 10 (111).

Use numbers expressed in numerals when (111-112): 

  • Numbers are 10 and above.
  • Numbers are in the abstract of a paper.
  • Numbers that immediately precede a unit of measurement. Ex: a 5-mg dose
  • Numbers that represent statistical or mathematical functions, decimal quantities, percentages, ratios, and percentiles. Ex: 3 times as many [proportion]
  • Numbers that represent time, dates, ages, scores and points on a scale, exact sums of money, and numerals as numerals. Ex: 2-year-olds
  • Numbers that denote a specific place in a numbered series, parts of books and tables, and each number in a list of four or more numbers. Ex: Grade 8

Use numbers expressed in words when (112): 

  • Any number that begins a sentence, title, or text heading.
  • Common fractions.
  • Universally accepted usage.

Combine numerals and words to express numbers when (112-113):

When conveying back-to-back modifiers. Ex:  ten 7-point scales

When readability may suffer, spell out both numbers. Ex: first two items

Ordinal numbers (113): 

Treat ordinal numbers as you would cardinal numbers (113). Ex: the fourth graders; four grades

Commas in numbers (114):

Use commas between groups of three digits in most figures of 1,000 or more (114).

Exception: page numbers       page 1029

Plurals in numbers (114): 

To form the plurals of numbers, add s or es along, without an apostrophe (114).

Ex: 10s and 20s; fours and sixes

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