FAQ
Technical issues
What is a PDF file?
How do I use the PDF reader?
Why does it take so long for a file to download on my dial-up connection?
Other Issues
What are session laws?
What are statutes?
What are private laws?
What are public laws?
Where is current law found?
Why are the Statutes at Large and Smith's Laws collections included?
How are the session laws cited?
Why do some volumes contain laws from prior years?
Is a free on-line official version of Pennsylvania statutes available?
What is a PDF file?
A PDF (Portable Document File) creates an exact duplicate of a text or image file. To display the session laws, it was necessary to scan individual pages to create image (TIFF) files. The image file or files for each act are identified and converted to a PDF file. It is necessary to have installed a browser plug-in before attempting to view the laws. Adobe® Acrobat Reader® is a free plug-in that may be downloaded from Adobe Systems Incorporated®.
How do I use the PDF reader?
The most commonly used toolbar features and the status bar are explained.
Why does it take so long for a file to download on my dial-up connection?
The image files that are used to create the PDF files, like all image files, are large. If a PDF file contains several or many images, the file size is considerable. The time it takes to download a file is broadly a function of three variables: modem, phone line and Internet Service Provider (ISP). A 450KB file will load using a 56Kb modem connection in just over 1 minute. A 1MB file using the same connection will load in approximately 2 minutes and 30 seconds. The size of each file is displayed to aid in estimating download times.
What are session laws?
Session laws refers to laws and related actions enacted for the Province and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and published on a periodic basis. Today, the session laws, also known as "Pamphlet Laws," are published annually in a bound volume or volumes.
What are statutes?
Statutes reflect enactment of, amendments to and repeals of session laws. Official versions of statutes enacted by the Pennsylvania General Assembly are published in the Laws of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes. Codification by the Pennsylvania General Assembly of statutes in force, grouped by subject matter, is ongoing.
What are private laws?
A private law generally relates to a particular individual or locality and is often referred to as special or local legislation. Many state constitutions prohibit or limit private laws.
What are public laws?
A public law relates to the public as a whole or to a specified class of the public and is normally referred to as general legislation.
Where is current law found?
Most session laws are compiled and published as an unofficial version of Pennsylvania's unconsolidated statutes in the form of Purdon's® Pennsylvania Statutes Annotated®. Session laws enacted as part of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes are published in an official version in the form of Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes by the Legislative Reference Bureau. Session laws enacted for a limited, specific purpose (appropriation acts being the prime example) appear in the Pamphlet Laws but generally are not included in either the unofficial or official versions of the statutes.
Why are the Statutes at Large and Smith's Laws collections included?
Both collections were authorized by statute and meticulously compiled. The Statutes at Large, containing private and public laws, were prepared with access to books of record and printed under the direction of commissioners appointed by the Governor. They contain charters, laws in force and obsolete laws from 1682 through 1809. Publication began in 1896. Smith's Laws, public laws in force from 1700 through 1829, were published prior to the Statutes at Large, beginning in 1810. They were reviewed by judges of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and the General Assembly upon completion. Smith's Laws were cited in the unofficial abridgement of Pennsylvania laws prepared beginning in 1811 by John Purdon, Jr. and now published by West Group® as Purdon's® Pennsylvania Statutes Annotated® and Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Annotated®.
How are the session laws cited?
The session laws are cited as follows:
  • Statutes at Large: act of November 18, 1782 (11 St.L.5, Ch.996).
  • Smith's Laws: act of May 28, 1715 (1 Sm.L.94, Ch.208).
  • Pamphlet Laws: act of April 28, 1999 (P.L.24, No.3).
Why do some volumes contain laws from prior years?
Sessions in early years very often began in October or December and ended the following year. Also, some laws from earlier sessions were never published until later. For these reasons, the volume published for a particular annual session often contained some laws enacted in prior years.
Is a free on-line official version of Pennsylvania statutes available?
A free on-line official version of Pennsylvania statutes is not available.
However, the Pennsylvania General Assembly's website (www.legis.state.pa.us) has a link to "Unofficial Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes from West."
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