on or about

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A phrase that is used throughout civil and criminal legal practice to refer to a specific date or place by narrow approximation.  It is often seen either in a civil or criminal complaint, or within legal documents that create obligations or protections for a party.  It provides an approximation of a time and/or place and expands the accuracy or coverage of a statement without pointing to an exact date or place that would be more easily challenged.  When used to describe a location “on or about” means anywhere and everywhere on, but not outside of, the locus at issue. For example, a contract may allocate risk against loss by fire for anything “on or about said leased premises.” Similarly, when the phrase is used in a complaint, it could describe the location of an occurrence as, “on or about the corner of (Main) and (Chestnut) Streets..." When used to describe a date, it means generally in the time around the date specified.  For purposes of the pleading requirement that a petition must give fair and adequate notice of the facts forming the basis of a claim, the term “on or about” means a date of approximate certainty, with a possible variance of a few days. Although this is generally sufficient where a particular date is not material, it is not sufficient where the statute of limitations is involved.  For example, the precise date of the commission of the crime of burglary is not of the essence of the offense and the use of the expression “on or about” a certain date in charging this offense is correct. The case against the accused is sufficiently proved only if it is shown that crime was committed and prosecuted within the time limited by the statute of limitations for this offense.

[Last updated in August of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]