This chapter describes the sources of law created by the legislative branch of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The materials include the laws enacted by the Virginia General Assembly, the publications in which those laws are found, and the resources available to assist in interpreting the legislative enactments.

The cardinal rule in Virginia statutory construction is that the statute expresses the intention of the lawmakers. Therefore, it falls upon the courts to ascertain the General Assembly’s intent where that intent becomes important in the application of statutory materials. When researching Virginia statutes, certain principles of interpretation and application must be kept in mind. The courts may not alter or correct a statute and are not permitted to apply the rules of construction where no ambiguity exists in the statute’s language. Nor should the courts be concerned with the motives or wisdom of the legislation.

Working from these principles, the courts have formulated rules of construction to resolve ambiguities that genuinely exist in a statute or that arise because of a conflict between different statutes. A discussion of these critical rules is beyond the scope of this book.

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