Have you been charged or 'may be' charged .....

Discussion in 'English Only' started by condo, Mar 1, 2013.

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  1. condo New Member

    I need a help with a question being asked on a form.

    Have you been charged or may be charged with a crime in any country? Yes or No
    If yes, give details

    Can someone please explain What does the word ' may be' convey?
  2. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    Hello condo.

    Welcome to the forum.

    I think that they are asking you whether you may be charged in the future, that is, whether you have reason to think that you are going to be charged with a crime. It is an odd question to ask, but I think that the additional 'any country' means that they are thinking about a the country you came from and where you might be charged with a crime if you went back there again.

    This is an odd way to ask the question. I think they were trying to use as few words as possible.

    However, I suggest you ask the people who gave you this form what they want to know. I would hate to mislead you by giving you the wrong interpretation.
  3. condo New Member

    Does it mean, whether I have reason to think that I am going to be charged with a crime or is there a possibility to be charged with a crime?
    Also why do some people say charged for a crime instead of charged with a crime? are they different?
  4. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    Yes. They seem to be asking whether there is a possibility that you are going to be charged with a crime.

    The question about 'charged for' is a new question and needs a separate thread. I think this existing thread will answer your question: charged for/with
  5. condo New Member

    Now, here is the tricky part. Because this question has YES/NO answer to it, a person who has committed a crime but where no charges have been laid or will be laid by the investigating authority due to lack of evidence will get away by saying No to this question.

    Applies to cases where crimes have been committed but complaints have never been made to the police by the victim in the first place.

    On the other hand, even if a person who has not committed any crimes will say NO but there still exist a possibility of being charged for a crime( cases where evidence has falsified). After all every person who is charged does not plead guilty. A charge alone does not necessarily indicate commission of a crime.

    As noted in the first part of the question, have you ever been charged? refers to the allegations made by official investigating body alleging a criminal conduct and because the ' may be charged' belongs to the same question, according to me it refers to the possibility of being charged by the police for a crime. As explained above, who can be charged and who cannot, according to me,' may be charged' refers to the phase when a person is under investigation or there is an arrest warrant for charges to be laid or steps are being taken the authorities for charges to be laid and the person is aware of it.

    Please let me know if native speakers agree with this interpretation.
  6. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    I agree that the question glosses over a lot of possibilities. Your understanding makes sense.

    However, we would have to know something about the form -- who is giving out the form and why -- order to have any opinion as to whether that is the information are looking for.

    Where did you see this form? Who is supposed to fill it out? What is its purpose?
  7. condo New Member

    I also know the word 'may' in some instances can mean ability? Does this apply to this question according to native speaker interpretation?
  8. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    English - US (Midwest)
    No. "You may be charged" in this context means "you might be charged."
  9. gramman

    gramman Senior Member

    These questions (context :) ) are very important. For example, in some jurisdictions, employers cannot ask you to disclose information about an arrest or detention that did not result in a conviction. It may be that the question relates to individuals released on bail or personal recognizance pending trial. But I don't see how, since, in those instances, charges were brought.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2013
  10. condo New Member

    Well, i came across this question on a form no longer in use but still wonder what it is? It was on a past canadian immigration form, no longer in use. As French is also spoken in Canada, the french version of the same form says " vous pourriez etre accuse d'un crime?" Will be nice if someone could shed some light. I wonder what this question means?

    What will the question mean if 'may' is being replaced by 'would/will', 'could/can' or 'should/shall' ?

    Thank you
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2013
  11. gramman

    gramman Senior Member

    As this is an English only section of WRF, I'm reluctant to discuss translations, but that phrase seems to again refer to being accused of (charged with) a crime. In the end, this just seems strange and vague to me. After all, can't we all be accused of/charged with a crime? For myself, I will state publicly and for the record that my conscience is clear! :D

    >>What will the question mean if 'may' is being replaced by 'would/will', 'could/can' or 'should/shall' ?

    "Ask your questions one at a time, Mr. Prosecutor!" ;)

    Please don't be offended, but I'm guessing you know what each of these would mean. And I think they'd all be rather nonsensical.
  12. condo New Member

    is the phrase 'may be' a modal perfect or does the modal+be+past participle construction called something special?

    I just want to make sure that my understanding is correct. Your question " can't we all be accused of/charged with a crime?" CAN'T here denotes a possibility also
    but if the question were " may we all be accused of a crime?" would mean as if i were seeking permission. Not sure if you said
    "can we all be accused of crime?

    Since I am not a native speaker, it would be nice what each of these questions would mean-
    What will the question mean if 'may' is being replaced by 'would/will', 'could/can' or 'should/shall' ?

    I apologize for the stupid questions though. Thank you for your help.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2013
  13. gramman

    gramman Senior Member

    Your questions surely aren't stupid, and I'm sorry if I implied that they were. But I'm going to have to be a bit more sorry because at the moment I don't have the time to go over the differences between may/can/will/shall.

    I think you greatly underestimate your English language skills. I hope that sounds like a compliment — it's meant to be! :) For example, I wouldn't know a modal perfect if I tripped over one; I've never even heard of that term.
  14. condo New Member

    In many dictionaries such a longman, 'may' expresses something will happen but it not certain. also macquarie (there is afree trial) dictionary say word 'may' expresses uncertainty. is it applicable to the present question?
  15. gramman

    gramman Senior Member

    I'd say yes.
  16. condo New Member

    Okay, will the question be any different if it were " you would be charged ?" Cannot seem to figure the difference between may and would. Would is used to describe hypothetical scenarios.. does the present question also do that.

    Second question: In the question below,
    Have you been charged or may be charged with a crime in any country?
    we know that it is referring to a possibility but if the question is directed to applicants, would that mean the question is asking for the applicant's opinion( what is possibility for one person , might not be possibility for another) or is it based on factual circumstances?

    How does one infer the above interpretation from the question?
  17. condo New Member

    sorry for bumping the thread but i am desperate for a reply... sorry!
  18. Linkway Senior Member

    British English
    I don't want to get into deep discussion of may/might etc in general, but in the originally given sentence the meaning is clear.
    'or may be charged' is used to include someone who has reason to expect that she or he will or could be charged with an offence even if charges have not yet been laid.

    That would include someone released on bail pending further investigations.

    It would also include someone 'on the run' from the police or other authorities who has not been charged but will be when apprehended.
  19. Wildcat1 Senior Member

    Amer. English
    Part of the problem here is that the sentence is simply ungrammatical, because of the lack of parallelism on the two side of "or".

    Grammatical sentences would be,
    "Have you been charged, or may you be charged, with a crime in any country?"
    "Have you been, or may you be, charged with a crime in any country?"

    I would not have used "may" here, but given what we have, I would interpret these sentences to mean,
    "Have you been charged, or is it possible that you will be charged, with a crime in any country?"

    But I don't know what situations, from a legal perspective, would be covered under "is it possible that you will be charged".
  20. condo New Member

    Okay cool... the shorter oxford dictionary says that 'may' is used to express subjective possibility i.e admissibility of a supposition.
    """stick to that truth and it may(=perhaps will) chance to save thee fletcher"" doesn't subjective mean " based on one's thought, idea etc" is this applicable to this question.
  21. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    Have you been charged with a crime in any country or [have you any real and existing reason at all to believe that you might, at some time in the future,] be charged with a crime in any country [for example one or more for which you are being investigated at the moment, and even if, so far no charges have been brought against you]?
  22. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    This is typical of the arrogance and stupidity of immigration authorities worldwide. How can they expect a true answer to the second part? It assumes (a) that you can predict the future (b) that you know the details of every legal system in the world and (c) that you are legally required to incriminate yourself.

    For all three reasons, I suggest you ignore the second part and answer as if it were: "Have you been charged with a crime in any country?"
  23. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    Very simply: you are aware that you have committed a crime but, as yet, the police have not been able to arrest you and thus charge you.

    Far from being stupid, it is very clever. If you answer wrongly, you become an illegal entrant by virtue of your having lied to obtain a visa - you then may be removed administratively, which is far cheaper and easier than extradition or deportation.

    If you reply, "Yes, I'm wanted for murder but they haven't caught me yet." You do not get the visa.

    If on the other hand you are genuinely unaware that you have committed a crime, yet you have, you will have your day in court in the country to which you are going. Here you will be able to present the defence that you could not have known. Your fate will then lie either towards extradition or deportation or mercy.

    There is a lot more to this question than appears at first sight but, as they say, "If you are innocent, you have nothing to fear..."
  24. gramman

    gramman Senior Member

    >>the police have not been able to arrest you

    So does this suggest that there's an arrest warrant? If that's the point of the question, it could be asked that way: Are you aware of any outstanding warrants?

    >>and thus charge you

    But even if you're arrested, there's a good chance you won't be charged with anything.

    In the end, this is clumsy, as Keith observed. By not being more specific, the question allows those answering it off the hook:
  25. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    No. (i) The crime may not yet have been discovered (you may be filling in the form 2 hours after disposing of the body) and (ii) warrants are only issued for known suspects - you may as yet, be an unknown suspect.

    The problem that the question is trying to overcome can only be expressed in perhaps not less than 3 paragraphs filled with legalese, followed by 4 paragraphs of layman's explanation.

    The question is there and in that format for a reason. If you stand up and say, "Well, that's not what I thought it meant!" you will fail - I know this, it is not an opinion. It is your duty to understand the law, not the law's duty to explain things to you. If you're in doubt, go and see a lawyer.

    You may disagree but it will be you against many governments and legal systems.

    It is not clumsy at all. I assure you that this is how forms work; not all of them, and not all of their questions are as simple as they appear, nor are they as obscure as they appear - the person filling them in has to do some brain-work and is not spoon-fed.

    The reality of the matter is that <1 in 1000 suffer the consequences and the rest are never ever disturbed by the power behind wording.
  26. gramman

    gramman Senior Member

    >>It is your duty to understand the law, not the law's duty to explain things to you

    I agree that if you knowingly lie … and then sign at the bottom swearing that you're not knowingly lying, you can get in trouble. :eek: . But surely any reasonable interpretation of what someone signs can be argued.

    >>I assure you that this is how forms work

    I agree that's the way a number of them are, but in my view it's not how they work well. If a question is unclear, isn't that a problem in itself? What is it each person is answering?
  27. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    Short answer "Yes", long answer "Not always" and next - a problem for whom?
    We are talking the final 1% here, but not all questions on forms are necessarily designed to be clear or be simple to understand or answer. And even when they are, the person who answers does not always understand why the question is answered and what will happen as a result of a particular answer and that uncertainty, from the government's point of view, encourages honesty - they also take into consideration mistaken answers.

    The US immigration form used to contain all manner of questions along the lines of "Have you ever worked as or controlled a prostitute?" "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?" Cunning and devious people who were Marxist pimps used to reply "No" to both questions. Yes, I know it's shocking but it does happen.

    If a hapless visa officer missed that the (generally honest) Marxist pimp had replied "Yes" to both and was then given a visa, there was no way back - admission was assured. Such questions were thus abandoned in favour of a philosophy that shorter questions, even if they did not capture the full nuances, were more helpful than direct ones when it came to transgressors and undesirables who are the bread and butter of law-enforcement agencies.

    However, as a broad principle, and save where the security of the state and/or taxes are concerned, a clear question is helpful.

    This has now probably passed well beyond the topic but I hope you agree that sometimes there is method in the madness.
  28. gramman

    gramman Senior Member

    >>sometimes there is method in the madness

    I can't speak to why the question was chosen, but its wording does raise other questions.

    >>a problem for whom?

    Anyone improperly assigning validity to answers.

    Surely a true Marxist would never work as a pimp.
  29. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    This discussion has gotten far from the original language question, which is perhaps unanswerable without information that is outside the scope of this forum.

    The thread is now closed.

    Cagey, moderator.
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