Crimes in Dubai and Criminal Justice
Criminal Law System in United Arab Emirates
UAE Criminal Law
The criminal law of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is mostly structured after the Sharia law, which is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia law deals with matters like liquor, gambling, sexuality, dress codes crimes, marriage, and other issues. Courts in Dubai apply the Sharia law regardless of the nationality or religion of the parties before them. This means that the Court in Dubai acknowledges and applies Sharia law for foreigners or non-Muslims who violate the laws of Dubai.
As such, it is important for residents of the country, locals, expatriates and tourists, to know its basic laws and regulations. Proper knowledge of the criminal law ensures that you unknowingly don’t break a law or regulation and suffer the consequences. Ignorance of the law is never an excuse before the Courts.
The criminal laws in Dubai are conservative despite the fact that most of the population are foreigners. It’s, therefore, not uncommon for tourists to be convicted in Dubai for actions that other countries consider harmless and legal.
The penalties for a crime in Dubai range from flogging to jail time. To avoid these penalties, anyone charged with a crime needs the assistance of a criminal lawyer well versed with the criminal justice system of Dubai. The criminal lawyers at Al Obaidli & Al Zarooni Advocates & Legal Consultants understand the gravity of a criminal charge in the UAE. As criminal defense lawyers, we have the knowledge and expertise to assist with such charges.
What is Crime in the UAE?
A crime in UAE is simply an act or omission that constitutes an offense and is punishable by the country’s law. The definition of crime is similar in all jurisdictions. But the procedure for establishing the guilt of an accused differs in different countries, as does the penalties imposed.
Crimes do not only involve physical harm. They can involve monetary, moral, and physical damage to any human being or organization. Crimes in Dubai can be divided into six broad categories:
Sexual crimes: Minor sexual abuse, rape, human trafficking, sexual harassment, indecent exposure, prostitution, homosexuality, and public display of affection are among the sexual crimes in Dubai.
- Cybercrimes: Cyber financial fraud, digital harassment, online fraud, identity theft, online money laundering, online investment fraud, and phishing all fall within the category of cybercrimes.
- Financial crimes: Crimes like money laundering, credit card fraud, identity theft, bribery and corruption, embezzlement, bank, and investment frauds, fall under this category.
- Drug offenses: This involves possession and/or consumption of drugs, among other offenses.
- Violent crimes: Manslaughter, murder, kidnapping, assault, and battery fall under this category.
- Other crimes: This category includes offenses like apostasy, alcohol consumption, abortion, violations of dress code, eating and drinking publicly during Ramadan, false allegations crimes, theft, among others.
What are Criminal Proceedings like in Dubai?
The procedure for criminal proceedings in Dubai can be cumbersome. Especially for foreign expatriates. A reason for this is the language barrier. Another reason is the fact that Dubai derives some of the criminal laws from Islamic Sharia Law.
It is important to note that anyone who breaks the laws of the country is subject to its judicial system, foreigner or not. A foreigner’s home government cannot protect them from the consequences of their actions. They also cannot supersede the decisions of local authorities or seek preferential treatment for their citizens.
However, they will make efforts to see that their citizens are not discriminated against, denied justice, or penalized inordinately.
How to Begin Criminal Actions in Dubai?
If you have been a victim of a crime in the Dubai, the first step to take after a crime is to file a criminal complaint against the offender with the police. In the criminal complaint, you must narrate the sequence of events formally (in writing) or orally (the police will record your oral statement in Arabic). You have to then sign the statement.
Note, you must file the criminal complaint at the police station in the place where the crime happened.
How do Criminal Trials Proceed?
After the complainant has made his or her statement, the police contact the accused person and take his or her statement. This is part of the criminal investigation process.
During this process, the accused person may inform the police of potential witnesses who can testify in their favor. The police may summon these witnesses and record their statements.
The police then refer the complaint to the relevant departments (like the electronic crimes department and the forensic medicine department) responsible for reviewing complaints.
Once the police take all the relevant statements, they then refer the complaint to the public prosecution.
The public prosecution is the judicial authority with the power to refer cases to the criminal court.
When the matter gets to the public prosecutor, the prosecutor will summon the complainant and the accused separately for an interview. Both parties may have the opportunity to bring witnesses to testify in their favor before the prosecutor.
The clerk assisting the prosecutor records the statements of the parties in Arabic. And the parties then have to sign their statements.
If the prosecutor decides to take up the case, they’ll summon the accused person to appear before the relevant criminal court. The prosecution gives the court the details of the crime(s) the accused has been charged with. On the other hand, if the prosecution feels that there is no reason to pursue the case, they archive it.
What Punishments Can You Expect?
When the court finds an accused person guilty, the court delivers penalties according to law. These include:
- Death (capital punishment)
- Life imprisonment (15 years and above)
- Temporary imprisonment (3 to 15 years)
- Confinement (1 to 3 years)
- Detention (1 month to 1 year)
- Flagellation (up to 200 lashes)
A convicted person has 15 days to appeal the guilty verdict. If they choose to appeal, they’ll still remain in custody until the court of appeal’s hearing.
Upon another guilty verdict, the offender can also appeal the court of appeal’s decision. This appeal is to the highest court. At this stage, the defendant’s lawyer must show that one of the lower courts had made an error when they applied the law.
The appeal court can change jail terms for minor offenses to community service. So, a minor offense that was punishable by about six months or a fine can be replaced by community service of about three months.
The court may also order that a community service period be changed into a jail term. This will happen if the public prosecutor reports that the offender has failed to carry out his duties during the community service.
The punishment for Islamic law offenses is based on Islamic jurisprudence (Sharia). There is the punishment called qisas, and there is diyya. Qisas means equal punishment. For instance, an eye for an eye. On the other hand, diyya is a compensatory payment for the death of a victim, known as “blood money.”
The courts will impose the death penalty when a crime endangers the safety of the society. However, the court rarely issues the death penalty. Before they can do so, a panel of three judges must agree on it. Even at that, the death penalty may not be executed until the President confirms it.
Under Islamic law in Dubai, if the court finds the defendant guilty of murder, only the family of the victim can ask for the death penalty. They are also allowed to waive that right and demand diyya. Even the President cannot interfere in such a situation.
Need an Experienced UAE Criminal Lawyer?
Getting criminal justice in Dubai can be a bit overwhelming. You need a criminal lawyer that is knowledgeable and experienced in the country’s criminal justice system.
At Al Obaidli & Al Zarooni Advocates & Legal Consultants, we have years of significant experience in criminal matters. Our advocates and legal consultants have gained considerable experience and expertise in representing clients accused of either federal or state criminal offenses within the country. If you have been charged with a criminal offense, it is important to speak with a criminal lawyer as soon as possible.
If you need us to help you with your criminal matter, or you know someone who does, then we are just a click away. Contact us, and we can get started.