Common Words with Uncommon Legal Meanings: “Information”

In legal contexts “information” and información can often be considered equivalent concepts, as in información confidencial (confidential information) or delito de revelación de información clasificada (offense of disclosure of classified information). Likewise, in corporate law contexts, derecho de información refers to shareholders’ right to have access to company information.

But this is not always the case. Información privilegiada is indeed “insider information” but abuso de información privilegiada denotes “insider trading” or “insider dealing.” And información de derechos al detenido is the Spanish expression for “reading an arrestee his rights.”

As for “information,” translators may initially be puzzled the first time they see this common term used with an uncommon meaning in criminal law contexts where it denotes either the reporting of a crime (in England and Wales) called “laying an information,” or a formal criminal charge brought by a prosecutor (in the US).

For information(!), here are the pertinent definitions:

  • laying an information—giving a magistrate a concise statement (an information), verbally or in writing, of an alleged offense and the suspected offender, so that he can take steps to obtain the appearance of the suspect in court. Information can be laid by any member of the public, although it is usually done by the police (Oxford Dictionary of Law)
  • information—a formal criminal charge made by a prosecutor without a grand-jury indictment (Black’s Law Dictionary)

So, what are possible translations of “information” in these contexts? In the first case (the Oxford Dictionary definition for England and Wales), “information” might be rendered as denuncia de un delito (perhaps more commonly expressed in the US as a “crime report”), while “laying an information” might be translated as denunciar un delito (also more likely to be expressed in US English as “reporting a crime”). In the second case (the Black’s Law Dictionary definition), “information” could appropriately be rendered as escrito de acusación, which in Spain is the term denoting a prosecutor’s (fiscal) charging instrument.

5 thoughts on “Common Words with Uncommon Legal Meanings: “Information”

  1. This was a great example. A couple weeks ago, a client asked me to vet a bilingual paralegal for their office. “Information” was one of the terms I tested her on. Sadly she was not acquainted with the diverse meanings but it helped her and the attorneys to have a deeper appreciation for the work of interpreters and translators. Thank you for your valuable and helpful work!


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