California Codes

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The California Codes are 29 legal codes enacted by the California State Legislature, which, alongside uncodified acts, form the general statutory law of California. The official Codes are maintained by the California Office of Legislative Counsel for the Legislature. The Legislative Counsel also publishes the official text of the Codes publicly at

Codes currently in effect[edit]

The 29 California Codes currently in effect are as follows:

Name of code Date of adoption Original source
Business and Professions Code June 15, 1937 Stats. 1937, Ch. 399, pp. 1229–1326
Civil Code March 21, 1872 (Haymond 1872, vol. 1 and vol. 2)
Code of Civil Procedure March 11, 1872 (Haymond 1872, vol. 1 and vol. 2)
Commercial Code June 8, 1963 Stats. 1963, Ch. 819, pp. 1849–2015
Corporations Code July 1, 1947 Stats. 1947, Ch. 1038, pp. 2309–2441
Education Code April 7, 1943 Stats. 1943, Ch. 71, pp. 310–792
Elections Code February 2, 1939 Stats. 1939, Ch. 26, pp. 49–318
Evidence Code May 18, 1965 Stats. 1965, Ch. 299, pp. 1297–1370
Family Code July 13, 1992 Stats. 1992, Ch. 162, pp. 463–722
Financial Code May 15, 1951 Stats. 1951, Ch. 364, pp. 829–1158
Fish and Game Code May 21, 1957 Stats. 1957, Ch. 456, pp. 1308–1499
Food and Agricultural Code March 15, 1967 Stats. 1967, Ch. 15, pp. 44–825
Government Code April 13, 1943 Stats. 1943, Ch. 134, pp. 896–1032
Harbors and Navigation Code May 25, 1937 Stats. 1937, Ch. 368, pp. 792–1004
Health and Safety Code April 7, 1939 Stats. 1939, Ch. 60, pp. 482–1003
Insurance Code May 7, 1935 Stats. 1935, Ch. 145, pp. 496–780
Labor Code April 24, 1937 Stats. 1937, Ch. 90, pp. 185–329
Military and Veterans Code July 5, 1935 Stats. 1935, Ch. 389, pp. 1338–1418
Penal Code February 14, 1872 (Haymond 1874)
Probate Code May 11, 1931 Stats. 1931, Ch. 281, pp. 587–687
Public Contract Code September 21, 1981 Stats. 1981, Ch. 306, pp. 1434–1447
Public Resources Code April 26, 1939 Stats. 1939, Ch. 93, pp. 1067–1216
Public Utilities Code May 31, 1951 Stats. 1951, Ch. 764, pp. 2025–2258
Revenue and Taxation Code May 16, 1939 Stats. 1939, Ch. 154, pp. 1274–1377
Streets and Highways Code March 27, 1935 Stats. 1935, Ch. 29, pp. 248–353
Unemployment Insurance Code April 21, 1953 Stats. 1953, Ch. 308, pp. 1457–1553
Vehicle Code September 15, 1935 Stats. 1935, Ch. 27, pp. 93–247
Water Code May 13, 1943 Stats. 1943, Ch. 368, pp. 1604–1896
Welfare and Institutions Code May 25, 1937 Stats. 1937, Ch. 369, pp. 1005–1183

Repealed codes[edit]

The following codes have been repealed:

Name of code Date of adoption Original source Replaced by
Agricultural Code February 7, 1933 Stats. 1933, Ch. 25, pp. 60–298 Food and Agricultural Code
Banking Code June 24, 1949 Stats. 1949, Ch. 755, pp. 1376–1488 Financial Code
Political Code March 12, 1872 (Haymond 1872, vol. 1 and vol. 2) Government Code
School Code March 28, 1929 Stats. 1929, Ch. 23, p. 45 Education Code

Influence elsewhere[edit]

The California Codes have been influential in a number of other U.S. jurisdictions, especially Puerto Rico. For example, on March 1, 1901, Puerto Rico enacted a Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure which were modeled after the California Penal Code,[1][2] and on March 10, 1904, it enacted a Code of Civil Procedure modeled after the California Code of Civil Procedure.[3] Thus, California case law interpreting those codes was treated as persuasive authority in Puerto Rico.[4]

In 1941, the Puerto Rican Legislative Assembly joined the nationwide movement towards transferring civil procedure and evidentiary law into a system of rules promulgated by the courts, then abolished the judicial power to promulgate rules in 1946, then reinstated it in 1952 (subject to the right of the legislature to amend court rules before they went into effect).[3] Eventually, after much of its content was superseded by the Rules of Civil Procedure and the Rules of Evidence, most of the Code of Civil Procedure of Puerto Rico was rendered obsolete and was therefore repealed.[3] However, although the Penal Code of Puerto Rico underwent extensive recodification and renumbering in 1974,[2] many of its sections still bear a strong resemblance to their California relatives.[5]

The Code of Guam, implemented in 1933 by Governor George A. Alexander, was modeled after the California Codes.[6] Thus, Guam courts look to California case law to assist them with interpretation of the Code of Guam.[7]


In 1868, the California Legislature authorized the first of many ad hoc Code Commissions to begin the process of codifying California law. Each Code Commission was a one- or two-year temporary agency which either closed at the end of the authorized period or was reauthorized and rolled over into the next period; thus, in some years there was no Code Commission.[8] The first four codes enacted in 1872 were the Civil Code, the Code of Civil Procedure, the Penal Code, and the Political Code.[9][10] Statutes that did not fit these categories were simply left uncodified in the California Statutes.

The four original California Codes were not drafted from scratch, but were mostly adapted by the Code Commission from codes prepared for the state of New York by the great law reformer David Dudley Field II.[10][11] As a result of the Gold Rush, many New York lawyers had migrated to California, including Field's brother, Stephen Johnson Field, who would ultimately serve as California's fifth Chief Justice before being appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The strong New York influence on early California law started with the California Practice Act of 1851 (drafted with the help of Stephen Field), which was directly based upon the New York Code of Civil Procedure of 1850 (the Field Code). In turn, it was the California Practice Act that served as the foundation of the California Code of Civil Procedure. New York never enacted Field's proposed civil or political codes, and belatedly enacted his proposed penal and criminal procedure codes only after California, but they were the basis of the codes enacted by California in 1872.[11]

As noted above, the initial four codes were not fully comprehensive. As a result, California statutory law became disorganized as uncodified statutes continued to pile up in the California Statutes. After many years of on-and-off Code Commissions, the California Code Commission was finally established as a permanent government agency in 1929. In its first report, the Commission stated: "The California statutory law is in a deplorable condition ... law writers and publishers unite in considering it the worst statutory law in the country."[12] To staff the new permanent incarnation of the Code Commission, the state Legislature simply appointed the Legislative Counsel as the secretary of the Commission.[8] Thus, as a practical matter, most of the real work was performed by the Legislative Counsel's deputies and then approved by the Code Commissioners.[13]

The Commission spent the next 24 years analyzing the massive body of uncodified law in the California Statutes and drafting almost all the other codes. By 1953, when the Code Commission completed its assigned task and issued its final report on September 1 of that year, 25 Codes were then in existence.[10] That year, the Legislature replaced the Code Commission with the California Law Revision Commission.[8][10] Since then, the CLRC has been tasked with regularly reviewing the Codes and proposing various amendments to the Legislature.[10] Most of these are simple maintenance amendments to ensure that statutory cross-references are properly updated to add new laws or omit laws which no longer exist.

The newest code is the Family Code, which was split off from the Civil Code in 1994. Although there is a Code of Civil Procedure, there is no Code of Criminal Procedure.[1] Instead, criminal procedure in California is codified in Part 2 of the Penal Code, while Part 1 is devoted to substantive criminal law.


The Codes contain, or are supposed to only contain general statutory law, with the emphasis on the word "general".[10] The Legislature also regularly enacts a variety of other resolutions which are not laws of general application, such as annual budget bills, appropriation bills for specific periods of time, acts authorizing the purchase or disposition of land by the state government, and acts authorizing the issuance of bonds which terminate automatically upon repayment of the bonds.[10] The Legislature also regularly approves resolutions honoring the accomplishments of various distinguished persons. Because of their limited application, all such matters are not incorporated into the Codes.

The Codes form an important part of California law. However, they must be read in combination with the federal and state constitutions, federal and state case law, and the California Code of Regulations, in order to understand how they are actually interpreted and enforced in court. The Civil Code is particularly difficult to understand since the Supreme Court of California has treated parts of the Code as a mere restatement of the common law. For example, in Li v. Yellow Cab Co., the Supreme Court acknowledged the Legislature's original intent in enacting Civil Code section 1714[14] to codify a contributory negligence scheme subject to the last clear chance doctrine, then held the Legislature had not intended to freeze the common law in place and proceeded to judicially adopt comparative negligence. In contrast, other codes, such as the Probate Code and the Evidence Code, are considered to have fully displaced the common law, meaning that cases interpreting their provisions always try to give effect whenever possible to the Legislature's intent.

As noted above, the Legislative Counsel maintains an online website with the official text of the Codes.[10] The original four codes were printed as separate state documents in 1872 (but not as part of the California Statutes), and were also published by commercial publishers in various versions, including as a set in 1872.[10] In lieu of an official set, unofficial annotated codes are widely available from private publishers.[10] West publishes West's Annotated California Codes and LexisNexis publishes Deering's California Codes Annotated.[10] Although Deering's is much older,[10] West is the more popular of the two annotated codes. Libraries that lack sufficient shelf space to carry both codes—usually because they are small law libraries, public libraries serving the general public (as distinguished from public law libraries), or out-of-state libraries—usually carry only West and omit Deering's.

There are also a handful of relatively minor statutes which were never codified and are not included in the Legislative Counsel's online copy, but probably should have been codified as they are laws of general application.[10] For example, certain initiative acts could not be codified by an act of the Legislature because they were originally enacted by popular vote of the electorate.[10] The final Code Commission report of September 1, 1953 recommended that such statutes should be published in an appendix to whichever code they are most relevant and not grouped into a separate volume.[10] The unofficial annotated codes include those statutes either as appendixes to the codes in which they probably should have been codified, or within annotations to particular code sections; Deering's also prints the uncodified initiative acts in a separate volume.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b See Paragraph 1, Annotations Under Former Section 10, Title 33, Laws of Puerto Rico Annotated. This source notes that the Puerto Rico Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure as enacted in 1902 were directly drawn from the California Penal Code. But the Puerto Rico codification commission decided to part ways with California by splitting the procedural provisions into a separate Code of Criminal Procedure, since the population had been accustomed to having separate substantive and procedural criminal codes under the previous Spanish government.
  2. ^ a b See Special Provisions Under Former Section 1, History of the Penal Code of Puerto Rico, Title 32, Laws of Puerto Rico Annotated.
  3. ^ a b c See Special Provisions Under Former Section 1, History of the Code of Civil Procedure—Spanish Law, Title 33, Laws of Puerto Rico Annotated.
  4. ^ People v. Cirino, 69 P.R.R. 488 (1949).
  5. ^ Compare Cal. Pen. Code § 187(a) ("Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought") to 33 L.P.R.A. § 4001 ("Murder is the killing of a human being with malice aforethought").
  6. ^ Saussotte, Marguerite (12 August 2010). "US Naval Era: Development of the Code of Guam". Guampedia. Guam: University of Guam. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 11 May 2011.
  7. ^ See Sumitomo Constr. Co., Ltd. v. Zhong Ye, Inc., 1997 Guam 8; 1997 WL 471506, at *2 (Guam 1997) ("[W]hen a legislature adopts a statute which is identical or similar to one in effect in another jurisdiction, it is presumed that the adopting jurisdiction applies the construction placed on the statute by the originating jurisdiction."); see also Fajardo v. Liberty House Guam, 2000 Guam 4; 2000 WL 38719, at *4-5 (Guam 2000) (applying California case law where the Guam statute mirrored a California statute and "there is no compelling reason to deviate from [California's] interpretation of th[e] statute[ ].").
  8. ^ a b c Kleps, Ralph N. (December 1954). "The Revision and Codification of California Statutes 1849-1953" (PDF). California Law Review. 42 (5): 766–802. doi:10.2307/3477710. JSTOR 3477710.
  9. ^ "California Civil Code § 23". California Office of Legislative Counsel. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Martin, Daniel W. (2006). Henke's California Law Guide (8th ed.). Newark: Matthew Bender & Co. pp. 45–67. ISBN 08205-7595-X. Available through HeinOnline.
  11. ^ a b Morriss, Andrew P. (April 1999). "Codification and Right Answers". Chicago-Kent Law Review. 74 (2): 355–391.
  12. ^ Nathan M. Crystal, Codification and the Rise of the Restatement Movement, 54 Wash. L. Rev. 239, 260 (1979).
  13. ^ Kleps, Ralph L. (1959). "The Function of the Legislative Counsel". Appendix to the Journal of the Assembly, Legislature of the State of California, 1959 Regular Session. 3: 56.
  14. ^ Cal. Civil Code § 1714

External links[edit]