UAE Criminal Law: An Overview Of Procedures For Expats

Feb 24


Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Hassan Mohsen Elhais

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This article will explain the intricacies of criminal proceedings from the best criminal lawyers in the UAE.


He is guilty of this crime,UAE Criminal Law: An Overview Of Procedures For Expats Articles we all know that it is the judge who decides this particular question, but on what basis and how will he deduce that? The Oxford dictionary defines crime as “an offence which crosses the boundaries of the personal sphere and enters the public space by breaking the rules and regulations where legitimate punishments are the direct consequence.” The definition of crime is the same for all jurisdictions, yet the procedure for establishing the guilt of the criminal or imposing penalty differs in all territories. 

While we understand that the procedure for criminal proceedings is cumbersome and overwhelming, especially for foreign expatriates due to language barriers, we believe this guide will provide a pathway for a better understanding. The guide is split into several sections, but the most relevant questions are in relation to criminal proceedings.

1. How do I file a criminal case?

A victim’s first and foremost step in reporting any criminal act is to register a complaint in the nearest police station against the accused. The concerned complaint shall entail all the details pertaining to the incident in a series of events. The complaint can be provided in writing or orally, which will be recorded by the police officer in Arabic and subsequently signed by the complainant.  In certain cases, the police officer may refuse to accept the complaint as the case falls beyond the jurisdiction of the police station. Thus, it is very important to register the complaint in the police station near the place of the incident.

2. Are there any legal or court fees for registering a complaint?

Unlike civil claims, a complainant is not required to submit legal fees or court fees for registering his complaint against the accused. However, one may incur attorney fees for legal representation before the criminal courts.

3. What happens when a complaint is registered?

Upon the registration of the complaint, the police department will review the complaint on the basis of the documents and evidence gathered and initiate their investigation. The report drafted by the police thereafter is forwarded to the public prosecutor. The prosecutor is empowered to prepare his report and conduct his investigation to determine if the accused is guilty of the offence. If the result shows a crime may have been committed, the file will be forwarded to the Criminal Court. Conversely, if no crime is believed to have occurred, then the complaint will be dismissed. This is in accordance with Federal Law Number 3 of 1987 regarding UAE Penal Code.

The criminal court, upon receiving the file and report from the prosecutor, may either pass judgment directly or it can accept the defense from the accused and pass a decision accordingly.

4. Can the victim bring a witness to prove the commission of a crime? What evidence is required in a criminal case?

The victim is allowed to bring a witness to support his complaint when given the opportunity by the police, public prosecutor or the court. Further, evidence that can be submitted before the court or the police will depend upon the case. For example, if the complaint is regarding a bad check, an official letter from the bank is used as evidence; however, if the crime involves cheating, fraud, or any type of misappropriation, any documents showing the same can be utilized as evidence.

Lastly, it is important to note that any video recorded without the consent of the other party cannot be used as evidence in the criminal case as it is against the UAE Penal Code and Cybercrime law (Federal Law 5 of 2012).

5. Who is a public prosecutor and what are his functions?

The public prosecutor is an extended arm of the UAE judicial system, involved in initiating a criminal case and acting upon it either by accepting or rejecting the case prima facie. The prosecutor is authorized to represent the public in criminal cases legally.

The functions of public prosecutor are to investigate into any criminal matter and to take appropriate action. They are a part of the judiciary who can directly deal with the public to examine criminal cases, draft reports, and determine the legality of the concerned matter. The prosecutor is obliged to draft a legal description of the matter before referring to the criminal court or another relevant court as the case may be.

Once the public prosecutor is of the opinion that the accused has committed the offence, he will notify or detain the accused to appear before the relevant court along with the necessary documents detailing the charges.

6. What is the maximum punishment for any criminal offence?

According to the Penal Code, every offence has a different penalty depending on the gravity and the type of offence. Below are the punishments for some common offenses in the country:

  • Misdemeanour: Article 29 of the Penal Code punishes the act of misdemeanour by way of imprisonment, fine exceeding AED 1,000 and payment of blood money;
  • Cheque bounce: Imprisonment and fine will be imposed on anyone issues a cheque in bad faith (Article 401);
  • Theft: Chapter Eight of the Penal Code sets out penalties for theft, where the maximum punishment for theft would be life imprisonment;
  • Felony: The act of felony will be punished either by capital punishment, temporary incarceration or life imprisonment.

7. Is victim or accused required to attend court proceedings?

Once a criminal complaint is registered by the victim and accepted by the public prosecutor, the victim is not required to attend the court hearings and also can appoint legal representatives to attend the hearing. The accused is always obliged to personally appear in the court especially in the cases where the punishment of the offence is imprisonment.

8. Can an appeal be filed in criminal cases?

Any party aggrieved from the decision of the Court of First Instance can file an appeal before the Court of Appeal and subsequently can file an appeal before the Court of Cassation against the decision of Appeal Court.

The accused can file an appeal within 15 days from the date of receiving judgment from Court of First Instance whereas 30 days are allotted to file an appeal before Court of Cassation against the decision of Appeal Court.

It is pertinent to note that the victim cannot file the appeal against the judgment of any lower court. Upon acceptance of the appeal, the public prosecutor represents the matter on behalf of the plaintiff and has the authority to file an appeal if aggrieved by any decision.

9. In what all cases the accused can face deportation?

There are several cases under which a foreign expatriate accused can face deportation from the country. The following are some cases where the UAE Penal code authorizes the court to pass a deportation order:

  • Article 121 under the case of felony or misdemeanour;
  • Crimes against religions and creed;
  • Cases of possessing narcotic drugs.

10. What is a timeline to get a judgment in criminal cases?

There is no prescribed timeline for obtaining a judgment from the criminal court as it solely depends upon the matter and the court’s discretion.