Felonies in UAE: Serious Crimes and Their Consequences

The United Arab Emirates has a robust legal system that takes a stern stance against serious criminal offenses classified as felonies. These felony crimes are considered the most egregious violations of UAE laws, threatening the safety and security of both citizens and residents. The consequences for felony convictions are severe, ranging from lengthy prison sentences to hefty fines, deportation for expatriates, and potentially even capital punishment for the most horrific acts. The following outlines the major categories of felonies in the UAE and their associated punishments, highlighting the nation’s unwavering commitment to maintaining law and order.

What constitutes a felony in the UAE?

Under UAE law, felonies are considered the most serious category of crimes that can be prosecuted. Crimes that are typically classified as felonies include premeditated murder, rape, treason, aggravated assault causing permanent disability or disfigurement, drug trafficking, and embezzlement or misappropriation of public funds over a certain monetary amount. Felony offenses generally carry harsh penalties such as lengthy prison sentences exceeding 3 years, substantial fines that can reach into the hundreds of thousands of dirhams, and in many cases, deportation for expatriates legally residing in the UAE. The UAE criminal justice system views felonies as extremely grave breaches of law that undermine public safety and social order.

Other serious offenses like kidnapping, armed robbery, bribery or corruption of public officials, financial fraud over certain thresholds, and certain types of cybercrimes such as hacking government systems may also be prosecuted as felonies depending on the specific circumstances and severity of the criminal act. The UAE has implemented strict laws related to felonies and applies severe punishments, including the death penalty for the most egregious felonies that involve acts like premeditated murder, sedition against the ruling leadership, joining terrorist organizations, or committing terrorist acts on UAE soil. Overall, any crime involving grievous bodily harm, violations of national security, or actions that flagrantly disregard UAE laws and social ethics can potentially be elevated to a felony charge.

What are the types of felonies in the UAE?

The UAE legal system recognizes various categories of felony crimes, with each category carrying its own set of punishments that are strictly defined and enforced based on the severity and circumstances of the offense. The following outlines the major types of felonies that are vigorously prosecuted within the UAE’s legal framework, underlining the country’s zero-tolerance stance towards such grave crimes and its commitment to maintaining law and order through harsh penalties and stringent jurisprudence.


The taking of another human life through premeditated and intentional action is considered the most serious of felony crimes in the UAE. Any act that results in the unlawful killing of a person is prosecuted as murder, with the court taking into account factors such as degree of violence used, motivations behind the act, and whether it was driven by extremist ideologies or hateful beliefs. Premeditated murder convictions result in extremely severe punishments, including life imprisonment sentences that can extend to several decades behind bars. In the most egregious cases where the murder is viewed as particularly heinous or a threat to national security, the court can also hand down the death penalty to the convicted individual. The UAE’s strong stance on murder stems from the nation’s core beliefs in preserving human life and maintaining social Order.


Breaking and illegally entering residential homes, commercial establishments or other private/public properties with the intention to commit theft, property damage or any other criminal act constitutes the felony offense of burglary under UAE laws. Burglary charges can be further aggravated based on factors like being armed with deadly weapons during the commission of the crime, inflicting physical injuries on occupants, targeting sites of national importance like government buildings or diplomatic missions, and being a repeat offender with prior burglary convictions. Penalties for felony burglary convictions are harsh, with minimum prison sentences starting at 5 years but often extending beyond 10 years for more serious cases. Additionally, expatriate residents convicted of burglary face guaranteed deportation from the UAE upon completion of their jail terms. The UAE views burglary as a crime that not only robs citizens of their property and privacy but can also escalate into violent confrontations that threaten lives.


Engaging in any form of bribery, whether by offering illicit payments, gifts or other benefits to public officials and civil servants or by accepting such bribes, is considered a serious felony under the UAE’s stringent anti-corruption laws. This covers monetary bribes aimed at influencing official decisions, as well as non-monetary favors, unauthorized business dealings, or granting special privileges in exchange for undue benefits. The UAE has zero tolerance for such graft which undermines integrity in government and corporate dealings. Penalties for bribery include imprisonment terms that can exceed 10 years based on factors like the monetary amounts involved, the level of the officials bribed, and whether the bribery enabled other ancillary crimes. Hefty fines running into the millions of dirhams are also imposed on those convicted of felony bribery charges.


The illegal act of abducting, forcibly moving, detaining or confining an individual against their will through use of threats, force or deception constitutes the felony crime of kidnapping as per UAE laws. Such offenses are viewed as a grave violation of personal freedoms and safety. Kidnapping cases are treated as even more severe if they involve child victims, include demands for ransom payments, are motivated by terrorist ideologies, or result in grievous physical/sexual harm to the victim during captivity. The UAE criminal justice system hands out stringent punishments for kidnapping convictions ranging from a minimum of 7 years of imprisonment all the way up to life sentences and capital punishment in the most extreme cases. There is no leniency shown, even for relatively shorter-term abductions or kidnappings where victims were eventually released safely.

Sexual Crimes

Any unlawful sexual act, ranging from rape and sexual assault to sexual exploitation of minors, sex trafficking, child pornography and other perverse crimes of a sexual nature, are considered felonies that carry extremely harsh penalties under UAE’s Sharia-inspired laws. The nation has adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards such moral crimes that are viewed as an affront to Islamic values and societal ethics. Punishments for felony sexual crime convictions can include lengthy prison terms ranging from 10 years to life sentences, chemical castration of rape convicts, public flogging in certain cases, forfeiture of all assets and deportation for expatriate convicts after serving their jail terms. The UAE’s strong legal stance aims to act as a deterrent, safeguard the nation’s moral fabric and ensure protection of women and children who are among the most vulnerable to such heinous acts.

Assault and Battery

While cases of simple assault without aggravating factors may be treated as misdemeanors, the UAE classifies acts of violence that involve use of deadly weapons, targeting of vulnerable groups like women, children and the elderly, infliction of permanent bodily harm or disfigurement, and assault by groups as felony crimes. Such cases of aggravated assault and battery resulting in grievous injury can lead to convictions with prison terms ranging from 5 years up to 15 years based on factors like intent, degree of violence, and lasting impact on the victim. The UAE views such unprovoked violent acts against others as a serious breach of public security and a threat to law and order if not dealt with severely. Assault committed against on-duty law enforcement or government officials invites enhanced punishments.

Domestic Violence

The UAE has strict laws protecting victims of domestic abuse and violence within households. Acts of physical assault, emotional/psychological torture, or any other form of cruelty committed against spouses, children or other family members constitutes a felony domestic violence offense. What distinguishes it from simple assault is the violation of family trust and sanctity of the home environment. Convicted perpetrators can face jail terms of 5-10 years in addition to fines, loss of custody/visitation rights for children, and deportation for expatriates. The legal system aims to safeguard family units which are the bedrock of UAE society.


The criminal act of fraudulently making, altering or replicating documents, currency, official seals/stamps, signatures or other instruments with the intent to mislead or defraud individuals and entities is classified as felony forgery under UAE laws. Common examples include using forged documents to obtain loans, preparing fake educational certificates, counterfeiting cash/checks etc. Forgery convictions invite stringent punishments ranging from 2-10 years imprisonment based on the monetary value defrauded and whether public authorities were deceived. Businesses must also maintain meticulous record-keeping to avoid corporate forgery charges.


While petty theft may be treated as a misdemeanor, the UAE prosecution escalates theft charges to felony level based on the monetary value stolen, use of force/weapons, targeting of public/religious property and repeat offenses. Felony theft carries minimum sentences of 3 years that can go up to 15 years for large-scale burglaries or robberies involving organized criminal gangs. For expatriates, deportation is mandatory upon conviction or completing jail term. The strict stance safeguards private and public property rights.


The illegal misappropriation or transfer of funds, assets or property by someone to whom they were legally entrusted qualifies as the felony of embezzlement. This white-collar crime covers actions by employees, officials, trustees, executors or others with fiduciary obligations. Embezzlement of public funds or assets is considered an even graver offense. Penalties include lengthy jail terms of 3-20 years based on the amount embezzled and whether it enabled further financial crimes. Monetary fines, asset seizures and lifetime employment bans also apply.


As the UAE pushes digitalization, it has concurrently enacted stringent cybercrime laws to protect systems and data. Major felonies include hacking networks/servers to cause disruption, stealing sensitive electronic data, distributing malware, electronic financial fraud, online sexual exploitation and cyberterrorism. Punishments for convicted cybercriminals range from 7 years imprisonment to life sentences for acts like breaching banking systems or national cybersecurity setups. The UAE views safeguarding its digital environment as critical for economic growth.

Money Laundering

The UAE has enacted comprehensive laws to combat money laundering activities that allow criminals to legitimize their ill-gotten gains from offenses like fraud, drug trafficking, embezzlement etc. Any act of transferring, concealing or disguising the true origins of funds derived from illegal sources constitutes the felony of money laundering. This includes complex methods like over/under-invoicing trade, using shell companies, real estate/banking transactions and cash smuggling. Money laundering convictions invite harsh punishments of 7-10 years imprisonment, in addition to fines up to the laundered amount and possible extradition for foreign nationals. The UAE is a member of global anti-money laundering bodies.

Tax Evasion

While the UAE has historically not levied personal income taxes, it does tax businesses and imposes strict regulations on corporate tax filings. Deliberate evasion through fraudulent underreporting of income/profits, misrepresenting financial records, failing to register for taxes or making unauthorized deductions is classified as a felony under the UAE’s tax laws. Tax evasion beyond a certain threshold amount leads to potential jail time of 3-5 years along with penalties of up to triple the evaded tax amount. The government also blacklists convicted companies barring them from future operations.


All forms of gambling, including casinos, racing bets and online betting, are strictly prohibited activities across the UAE as per Sharia principles. Operating any form of illegal gambling racket or venue is considered a felony punishable by up to 2-3 years imprisonment. Harsher sentences of 5-10 years apply for those caught running larger organized gambling rings and networks. Deportation is mandatory for expatriate felons post jail term. Only certain socially accepted activities like raffles for charitable causes are exempt from the ban.

Drug Trafficking

The UAE enforces a strict zero-tolerance policy towards trafficking, manufacturing or distribution of any kind of illegal narcotic substances and psychotropic drugs. This felony offense draws severe penalties including minimum 10 years of jail time and fines running into millions of dirhams based on the quantity trafficked. For substantial commercial quantities, convicts may even face life imprisonment or execution, apart from asset seizures. The death penalty is mandatory for drug kingpins caught operating major international drug smuggling networks through the UAE’s airports and ports. Deportation applies to expatriates after their sentences.


Under UAE laws, the act of intentionally aiding, facilitating, encouraging or assisting in the commission of a crime makes one liable for abetment charges. This felony applies whether the abettor directly participated in the criminal act or not. Abetting convictions can lead to punishments equal to or nearly as harsh as for the main perpetrators of the crime, based on factors like degree of involvement and role played. For serious felonies like murder, abetters can potentially face life imprisonment or capital punishment in extreme cases. The UAE views abetment as enabling criminal activities that disturb public order and safety.


Any act that instigates hatred, contempt or disaffection towards the UAE government, its rulers, judicial institutions or attempts to incite violence and public disorder constitutes the felony offense of sedition. This includes provocation through speeches, publications, online content or physical actions. The nation has zero tolerance for such activities viewed as threats to national security and stability. Upon conviction, penalties are stringent – ranging from 5 years imprisonment to life sentences and capital punishment for gravest sedition cases involving terrorism/armed insurrection.


The UAE has antitrust regulations to promote free market competition and protect consumer interests. Felony violations include criminal business practices like price fixing cartels, abuse of market dominance, making anti-competitive agreements to restrict trade, and acts of corporate fraud that distort market mechanisms. Companies and individuals convicted of felony antitrust offenses face severe financial penalties up to 500 million dirhams along with jail terms for principal perpetrators. The competition regulator also has powers to order breakup of monopolistic entities. Corporate debarment from government contracts is an additional measure.

laws in the UAE for the felony crimes

The UAE has enacted a comprehensive set of laws under the Federal Criminal Code and other statutes to strictly define and punish felony offenses. This includes the Federal Law No. 3 of 1987 on criminal procedural law, Federal Law No. 35 of 1992 on countering narcotics and psychotropic substances, Federal Law No. 39 of 2006 on anti-money laundering, the Federal Penal Code covering crimes like murder, theft, assault, kidnapping, and the recently updated Federal Decree Law No. 34 of 2021 on combating cybercrimes.

Several laws also draw principles from Sharia to criminalize moral offenses considered felonies, such as the Federal Law No. 3 of 1987 on Issuance of the Penal Code which prohibits crimes relating to public decency and honor like rape and sexual assault. The UAE legal framework leaves no ambiguity in defining the grave nature of felonies and mandates rulings by courts based on detailed evidence to ensure fair prosecution.

Can a person with a felony record travel to or visit Dubai?

Individuals with a felony criminal record may face challenges and restrictions when attempting to travel to or visit Dubai and other emirates in the UAE. The nation has stringent entry requirements and conducts thorough background checks on visitors. Those convicted of serious felonies, especially crimes like murder, terrorism, drug trafficking, or any offenses related to state security, may be permanently barred from entering the UAE. For other felonies, entry is evaluated on a case-by-case basis considering factors like the type of crime, time elapsed since conviction, and whether a presidential pardon or similar reprieve was granted. Visitors must be upfront about any criminal history during the visa process as concealing facts can lead to denied entry, prosecution, fines and deportation upon arrival in the UAE. Overall, having a significant felony record severely diminishes one’s chances of being allowed to visit Dubai or the UAE.

Scroll to Top