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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)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

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.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
Mr Taylor said that when the claim was put to Mr Mayes he dismissed it immediately saying it never happened.
"We educated dancers not to ignore it: Those muscles may be fatiguing and not supporting the bones well enough," Mayes says.
Mayes also gets credit for 90 days served at the Kane County jail before he was able to post bail.
Liz Mayes, chief executive of The Common Room of the Great North and Tony Pender, chairman of The Common Room board, with Dr Rick Smith, president of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers, and other stakeholders and trustees
Prior to Engage Therapeutics, Mayes served as chief operating officer of Advaxis Immunotherapies, and a member of its board of directors.
12, Judge Jason Sengheiser ordered a new trial following a post-trial motion by UPS arguing that evidence presented at trial showed that multiple individuals had heard Mayes use sexually explicit language at work, and that the jury award was "shocking and excessive."
Mr Mayes is now preparing to use the money raised to launch a community hub for those wanting to build their own Lego projects.
Kris Connelly, 23, dialed 999 just 10 minutes before Oliver Mayes, 29, attacked, causing brain damage.