Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death for adults > or =40 years of age. The American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that sudden cardiac arrest is responsible for about 250,000 out-of-hospital deaths annually in the United States. Since the early 1990s, the AHA has called for innovative approaches to reduce time to cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation and improve survival from sudden cardiac arrest. In the mid-1990s, the AHA launched a public health initiative to promote early CPR and early use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) by trained lay responders in community (lay rescuer) AED programs. Between 1995 and 2000, all 50 states passed laws and regulations concerning lay rescuer AED programs. In addition, the Cardiac Arrest Survival Act (CASA, Public Law 106-505) was passed and signed into federal law in 2000. The variations in state and federal legislation and regulations have complicated efforts to promote lay rescuer AED programs and in some cases have created impediments to such programs. Since 2000, most states have reexamined lay rescuer AED statutes, and many have passed legislation to remove impediments and encourage the development of lay rescuer AED programs. The purpose of this statement is to help policymakers develop new legislation or revise existing legislation to remove barriers to effective community lay rescuer AED programs. Important areas that should be considered in state legislation and regulations are highlighted, and sample legislation sections are included. Potential sources of controversy and the rationale for proposed legislative components are noted. This statement will not address legislation to support home AED programs. Such recommendations may be made after the conclusion of a large study of home AED use.