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Searching Criminal Law in the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS)


Non-attorney legal researchers often assume that legal indexes will use the same terms (also known as keywords, subject headings, or simply words) we use in real life. But they don’t! Welcome to my world.

(Databases also often refer to one search technique as “natural language searching.” Ha ha ha. There is little “natural” about each person’s use of the language, and there is even less that is “natural” when talking about the law. So, when you are told, “just use natural language,” I recommend you laugh darkly and do some research to find out a little about the profession’s unique nomenclature.)

When searching for criminal laws in the ORS Index, if your narrow, specific or your common sense search words don’t seem to be doing the trick, try looking under these main subject headings first, and then search using the words you selected:

* Crimes and Penalties
* Sentences and Punishment
* Fines and Penalties

There are a few other possibilities I could suggest, but one of these ORS Index subject headings usually does the trick.