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v. a choice to act or not, or a promise of a possibility, as distinguished from "shall" which makes it imperative. 2) in statutes, and sometimes in contracts, the word "may" must be read in context to determine if it means an act is optional or mandatory, for it may be an imperative. The same careful analysis must be made of the word "shall." Non-lawyers tend to see the word "may" and think they have a choice or are excused from complying with some statutory provision or regulation. (See: shall)

MAY. To be permitted; to be at liberty; to have the power.
     2. Whenever a statute directs the doing of a thing for the sake of justice or the public good, the word may is the same as shall. For example, the 23 H. VI. says, the sheriff may take bail, that is construed he shall, for he is compellable to do so. Carth. 293 Salk. 609; Skin. 370.
     3. The words shall and may in general acts of the legislature or in private constitutions, are to be construed imperatively; 3. Atk. 166; but the construction of those words in a deed depends on circumstances. 3 Atk. 282. See 1 Vern. 152, case. 142 9 Porter, R. 390.

References in periodicals archive ?
You are concerned with the reliability of evidence so these are matters that can only be relevant if they help you in deciding if Ryan Mayes and/or Elizabeth Taylor are credible witnesses.
The night before Ms Grender's death, Mayes and Whant had been at a house party on Corelli Street, Newport.
Mayes also presents the entertainment show "Layali Al Somer" on Abu Dhabi channel based in the UAE.
Mr Mayes, married to CBI North East assistant regional director Liz Mayes, has charted Northumbria University's City Campus East, Middlesbrough College's new campus and the Great North Museum revamp.
Mr Mayes said: ``The figures, nationally and locally, show a huge percentage of cases where no further action was taken.
The body of Mr Mayes, of Rushey Mead, Leicestershire, was recovered by firemen.
Mr Mayes was trapped and when he was eventually freed had suffered 80 per cent burns.
Before joining Safeway, Mayes was Senior Corporate Counsel for Lucky Stores, and an attorney at Donahue Gallagher Woods LLP.
And once we got to the photo studio, Mayes, like most opera singers I've met, proved to be utterly charming and intelligent.
Miss Grender's body was found at the burnt-out flat which she shared with Mr Mayes at Broadmead Park in Newport on February 5 last year.
Newport Crown Court heard yesterday that Whant alleged his second cousin, Ryan Mayes, 17, had fathered a child with another woman.
Stephen Mayes, 56, placed the white shrubs in Vikki Potter's spot so she could put them in the boot of her car when she arrived at work.