Results 1 to 4 of 4
  1. #1
    tphuong122002 is offline Newbie
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    4
    Post Thanks / Like

    Question What does "to press charge" mean?

    Hi,

    Could anyone help explain what "to press charge [against someone over something]" means? My friends said it means "to prosecute", but I can not find that in any dictionary. Please help!

    Many thanks!

    Tphuong

  2. #2
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    15,767
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: What does "to press charge" mean?

    It refers to the English legal system. In some countries if you break the law, you automatically get taken to court - 'prosecuted'.

    But in England there are lots of conflicting systems. The main two are the civil and the criminal law (that's a gross over-simplification, but it'll do ). If you commit a 'civil' offence - that is, broadly, one that doesn't interest the police - you can be taken to court - 'sued' - by another person. If you commit a crime, you're not always sued (although you may be if the victim thinks the police haven't taken the matter seriously enough).

    Two examples: person A is robbed. The police arrest the thief - a homeless man. But person A takes pity on him (the man only stole the price of a pint of beer) and decides not to 'press charges' - the police don't prosecute.

    Person B is stabbed. He knows who did it, but the police can't prove it, and after a few weeks they give up trying - again, they don't prosecute. But Person B is not satisfied and employs a private investigator to find evidence of the stabbing. The standard of proof in the two legal systems is different*. He takes the aggressor to court, for medical costs, legal fees, and loss of earnings (this is not prosecution, because it's not a criminal court) and wins. The person who stabbed him doesn't go to prison, but he pays a civil penalty (often just money - but sometimes a large amount).

    Sorry this is so long. As Pascal once wrote - I apologize for the length of this letter. I didn't have time to make it shorter [maybe I've quoted that before - it's one of my favourites].

    b

    *
    criminal court: 'innocent until proved guilty'... 'beyond a shadow of doubt'
    civil court: 'balance of probabilities'

    PS You may see signs in the UK saying 'KEEP OUT. Trespassers will be prosecuted'. People who put up such signs don't understand the law. A trespasser (civil miscreant) can't be prosecuted. Some sorts of trespass are defined as 'criminal trespass', but the land-owner doesn't have the power to prosecute. All he can do is press charges, which can't arise, since - by definition- criminal trespass is something that the police will prosecute over without asking the land-owner's opinion (although he may be 'called as a prosecution witness'). So what these signs mean is

    KEEP OUT
    Trespassers, if arrested for criminal trespass, will be prosecuted
    or

    KEEP OUT
    Trespassers, if caught, will be sued

    Not so pithy
    Last edited by BobK; 01-Jul-2008 at 17:53. Reason: Added PS

  3. #3
    curmudgeon's Avatar
    curmudgeon is offline Key Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Retired English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Posts
    1,657
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: What does "to press charge" mean?

    It is usually said as to press charges, or alternatively to drop charges.

    The first means to insist that the person is charged and the latter to let the matter go without further action.

    Once charges have been pressed then the person will be prosecuted.

    press charges - definition of press charges by the Online Dictionary from Datasegment.com

  4. #4
    tphuong122002 is offline Newbie
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    4
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: What does "to press charge" mean?

    Thank you very much indeed, BobK and curmudgeon, for the trouble you took to give your very detailed answers to my question.

    Best regards,

    Tphuong

Similar Threads

  1. "to call" vs "to press the button"
    By jctgf in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 17-Feb-2008, 03:50
  2. "to get to" x "to be able to"
    By jctgf in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 25-Nov-2007, 05:38
  3. Replies: 1
    Last Post: 12-Nov-2006, 20:12
  4. "To insinuate" vs "to imply"
    By ATDM in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 08-Jan-2006, 06:40
  5. "To understand" vs "To understanding"
    By msv1 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: 21-Nov-2005, 13:52

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •