"Virginia Decoded: The Code of Virginia for Humans"

In December the Charlottesville Albemarle Bar Association hosted Waldo Jaquith to speak on a web site he launched, called Virginia Decoded (vacode.org). The site has all of the sections of the Virginia Code linked to useful related information.

While the state has a site for the Code (http://leg1.state.va.us/000/src.htm), it provides very little information other than the text of the Code itself. On the state’s site the bottom of each code section lists letters and numbers that are shorthand for when that section was amended. There are links to other code sections.

If you compare the two sites there is an obvious difference in the appearance, amount of information provided and the ease of use on the Virginia Decoded page versus the state page. I’ve highlighted a few of these differences here.

  • You will notice at the top of VA Decoded you can follow a specific code section backwards to see all of the other sections in that chapter or even all of the chapters in that Title.
  • Many of the important words are underlined. If you do not know the definition of the word, simply hover your mouse over the word and a definition and the source for the definition will pop up. (Person is defined more than 100 times in the Virginia Code. This program picks up the closest definition if the word is defined in the code).
  • The history of the law is spelled out in words and not as a list of abbreviations.
  • On the right there is a list of related laws.
  • In the top right hand corner there is a search function that appears on every page. On the state site you have to go return to the home page to search. I have found the search function in Virginia Decoded to be more useful as well.
  • If the code section you are looking at has been cited in any recent Virginia Supreme Court Opinions, an area on the right of the page will give you the names of those cases.
  • The site will also list recent amendments, and even ones that failed.
  • Any other section of the code that mentions the section you are looking at will be set out in a “cross referenced” box on the right of the page.

While many people may never have a need to look up Virginia Laws, if you do or if you are simply curious, Virginia Decoded is a great resource.

Mr. Jaquith provides the site free of charge. He began it as a hobby and has since received a grant from the Knight Foundation to continue the work full time. His goal is to make the process available to people in all states if they want to take on the project for their state.


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