Criminal law in Dubai or the UAE is a branch of law that covers all offences and crimes committed by an individual against the state. Its purpose is to clearly put a borderline of what is considered unacceptable to the state and society.
This is well defined as the rule that sets aside the conduct that is allowed and tolerable from those that threaten, endanger, and harm the people. Criminal law in the UAE also emphasizes the punishments the offended must face.
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 to 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 criminal law ensures that you unknowingly don’t break the 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.
Criminal Cases are Handled by Public Prosecution
In the UAE, criminal cases are handled by the public prosecution department. These departments are responsible for prosecuting criminal cases against individuals or companies that have been accused of illegal dealings.
In the UAE, most criminal cases are handled by the Public Prosecution (PP), which is a government authority that is responsible for prosecuting crimes. The PP is a non-judicial authority and works in conjunction with the courts, law enforcement agencies, and other government authorities to investigate, prosecute, and ultimately try criminal suspects.
Once a suspect has been arrested, the PP will gather evidence, including witness statements, forensic reports, and any other relevant documents, and will present this evidence to the court at trial.
If a suspect is found guilty, the PP will then seek an appropriate punishment from the court, such as fines or imprisonment.
The Public Prosecution’s role in criminal cases spans multiple responsibilities, such as reviewing police reports to decide charges, representing the state during initial court appearances, preparing cases for trial, and negotiating plea bargains.
They also participate in pre-trial motions, present the state’s case at trial, and recommend sentences after a guilty verdict. Furthermore, they defend the original decision in case of appeals and participate in post-conviction proceedings like parole hearings. Their overarching goal is to uphold public safety, ensure justice is served, and maintain the rule of law.
What is Crime in The UAE?
A crime in the UAE is an illegal act that violates one or more laws or regulations of the country. Crimes can range from minor offences such as littering to more serious crimes like murder and trafficking.
The severity of the crime and the punishment often depends on the type of crime committed, the circumstances surrounding it, and the intention or state of mind of the person committing the crime.
The laws of the UAE prohibit certain acts and behaviours, and anyone who breaks these laws could face criminal prosecution and penalties. In certain cases, the punishment for a crime can even be capital punishment (death sentence).
Types of Crime in the UAE
Crimes in the UAE can be categorized in a variety of ways, but a few of the most common types include:
Personal Crimes: These are crimes that result in physical or mental harm to another person. Examples include assault, robbery, murder, rape, and kidnapping.
Property Crimes: These crimes involve interference with the property of another. While they may involve harm to another person, they are primarily crimes that involve an interference with the property rights of others. Examples include theft, burglary, arson, and embezzlement.
Inchoate Crimes: These are crimes that were started but not completed. This can include attempted robbery or solicitation of a crime. The crime doesn’t have to be completed for the actor to be found guilty.
Statutory Crimes: Crimes defined by statute, or laws passed by a legislative body. Many times these are “white collar” crimes, like fraud or embezzlement, that involve deceit and are typically committed by professionals.
Financial Crimes: These crimes are often committed by professionals in business environments, involving deceit, with the intention to secure unfair or unlawful gain. Examples include fraud, bribery, insider trading, embezzlement, computer crime, identity theft, and forgery.
Crimes against justice: These are crimes against the justice system itself, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, bribery of a witness, or escaping from jail.
Organized Crime: These are crimes committed by structured groups typically involving the provision of illegal goods or services to others. Examples are drug trafficking, illegal gambling, and smuggling.
Each of these categories can be broken down into sub-categories, and there are other ways to categorize crimes, but these provide a general overview of the types of crimes that exist.
Defining a Crime by its Category
Categorizing a crime in the UAE can depend on various factors and the jurisdiction where the crime has taken place. However, here are some general factors that are often considered when categorizing a crime:
Nature of the Crime: This refers to the type of action that was taken and who or what it was against. This is often the first factor used to categorize a crime, for example, whether it’s a personal crime, property crime, financial crime, etc.
The severity of the Crime: Crimes are often categorized as infractions, misdemeanours, or felonies based on their severity. Infractions are minor violations, misdemeanors are more serious, and felonies are the most serious type of crime.
Intent: The intent or mindset of the perpetrator at the time of the crime can also be a factor in how a crime is categorized. Crimes are often classified based on whether they were committed with intent (e.g., intentional murder) or without intent (e.g., negligent homicide).
Degree of Completion: Some jurisdictions categorize crimes based on whether they were completed or merely attempted.
Involvement of Violence: Whether the crime is violent or non-violent can also be a significant factor. Violent crimes are usually considered more serious and are prosecuted more aggressively.
The Impact on Victims: Some crimes are categorized based on their impact on victims. For instance, crimes can be separated into those that result in physical harm, emotional harm, financial harm, etc.
Legal Definitions: Each jurisdiction may have its own legal definitions and categories for crimes. The exact categorization of a crime can therefore depend on the laws of the state, country, or jurisdiction where the crime was committed.
It’s important to remember that the categorization of crimes can vary significantly between different jurisdictions and legal systems.
Examples of a Crime
Here are some examples of crimes, categorized according to their types:
- Personal Crimes:
- Assault: Physical attack on another individual.
- Robbery: Theft involving violence or the threat of violence.
- Murder: Unlawful killing of another individual.
- Rape: Non-consensual sexual intercourse.
- Property Crimes:
- Theft: Taking another’s property without consent.
- Burglary: Unlawful entry into a building with the intent to commit a crime, usually theft.
- Arson: Intentionally setting fire to property.
- Vandalism: Intentionally damaging property.
- Inchoate Crimes:
- Attempted robbery: Attempt to commit a robbery that was not completed.
- Solicitation of murder: Attempting to persuade or hire someone to commit murder.
- Statutory Crimes:
- Fraud: Deception intended to result in financial gain.
- Tax evasion: Willful failure to pay taxes owed.
- Insider trading: Illegal trading of a company’s stocks or other securities by individuals with access to non-public information.
- Financial Crimes:
- Bribery: Offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting something of value as a means to influence the actions of an individual in a position of power.
- Embezzlement: Misappropriation or misuse of funds placed in one’s trust.
- Identity theft: Fraudulently acquiring and using another person’s personal information.
- Crimes Against Justice:
- Perjury: Lying under oath during a court proceeding.
- Obstruction of justice: Acts that interfere with the judicial process.
- Escaping from jail: Leaving a jail or prison without permission.
- Organized Crime:
- Drug trafficking: Illegal trading, selling, or smuggling of drugs.
- Illegal gambling: Offering or participating in unlawful gambling activities.
- Smuggling: Illegal transportation of goods or persons across a border.
These are just a few examples and not an exhaustive list. The specifics of each crime can vary based on jurisdiction and local laws.
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, foreign or not. A foreigner’s home government or the embassy 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 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 sign the statement then.
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 favour. 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 offences 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 offences 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 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.
How can a local UAE Advocate Help you for your Criminal Case
As stated under Article 4 of the General Provisions of Federal Law No. 35/1992, any person accused of a felony of life imprisonment or death must be assisted by a credible lawyer. If the person could not afford to do so, the court shall appoint one for him.
Generally, the prosecution has the exclusive jurisdiction to carry out the investigation and directs indictments according to the provisions of the law. However, some cases listed in Article 10 of Federal Law No. 35/1992 do not need the prosecutor’s aid, and the complainant may file the action himself or through his legal representative.
It is important to note that, in Dubai or the UAE, the qualified Emirati Advocate must be well-versed in Arabic and has the right to an audience; otherwise, they seek the help of an interpreter after taking an oath. Noteworthy is the fact the criminal actions expire. Withdrawal or death of the victim would lapse the criminal action.
You will need a UAE lawyer who can help you navigate your way through the criminal justice system for you to get the justice you deserve. For without the assistance of a legal mind, the law will not help the victims who need it the most.
Your legal consultation with us will help us to understand your situation and concerns. If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges in the UAE, we can help.
Contact us to schedule a meeting. We have the best criminal lawyers in Dubai or Abu Dhabi to help you out. 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. For urgent Calls +971506531334 +971558018669