Theft Under UAE Law

In simple words, theft means an act of stealing any object. Theft is considered to be a crime under all laws. Theft means taking possession of another person’s property or object without his real consent or permission with an intention to deprive the stolen property of its rightful owner for all times. If you commit theft in the United Arab Emirates you will be punished with imprisonment from 6 months to 3 years or a fine. An attempt to theft is also a crime under the UAE law for which the punishment will be imprisonment from 3 months to 18 months or a fine.  In UAE the public prosecutor is the one who charges the accused of committing theft. Articles 381-398 of the UAE Penal Code, define the crime of theft and the penalties for the theft.


The object stolen must be a real movable property that has a real value and should be owned by others. However, the theft of immovable properties like ideas, thoughts, lands, etc. is governed by other laws in UAE. The two key factors to establish an offence of theft are “mens rea” (intention) and “actus reus” (action). That means there should be an intention to commit the action and the action must involve the possession of an object by another person without his consent. Taking possession of abandoned objects is not considered theft. Before committing the crime of theft, the ownership of the property must be established. If a person forgets an object somewhere, no one has the right to claim it as an abandoned object, and taking possession of such objects amounts to theft under the law. Further, if an abandoned object possessed by any person is subsequently taken from that person that will lead to the crime of theft since the ownership and possession of the object were re-established.


The motive behind a theft is irrelevant in any case. You will not be excused even if you prove the motive behind the theft. Taking the possession of money handover by mistake from any bank or exchange house is also a crime under theft. In certain cases, stealing one’s property also amounts to theft. The victims of theft cases should approach a qualified lawyer to prevent further loss of your stolen object. Cases, where the property is kept as a security against a debt, is an examples of that. And stealing of such securities as cheques, deeds, etc. against a debt, amounts to theft even though the property belongs to that person. Situations like temporary custody of objects are also covered under this law. A sealed envelope belonging to another person or a key given to view apartments are examples of temporary custody. And taking the objects from the envelope or stealing any property from the apartment is considered theft since the custody of the said objects is for a temporary purpose.


The UAE Penal Code has divided theft into two categories, one is easy theft and the other is aggravated theft. An easy theft is simple by nature and is viewed as a misdemeanor. Committing an easy or simple theft will lead to imprisonment for 1 year and/or a fine. On the other hand, aggravated theft offenders will be punished according to the kind of crime committed. According to Article 383, whoever commits theft at night or if theft is committed by two or more people, or if the culprit is armed with a weapon while committing a theft, or by climbing a wall or breaking a door by using duplicate keys or theft by coercion or theft by threat using weapon shall be imprisoned for life.


However, aggravated theft requires the use of weapons or coercion. Aggravated theft is a crime that leads to murder by using deadly weapons. Using arms and weapons in order to commit a theft amounts to aggravated theft. Punishment for aggravated theft is imprisonment of up to fifteen years depending upon the kind of crime committed. A theft attempt can be aggravated if there is a use of a weapon while stealing and it has caused bodily injury or harm to the defendant or stopped him from defending or protecting himself. And the punishment for such theft will be imprisonment of 3 – 15 years. According to Article 389 committing a theft in a place of worship, or inhabited places like schools, banks, home and within the boundary of home, or in any means of transport, station, seaport, or airport or entering into any place using duplicate keys and without the consent of the owner for committing the crime of theft, or committing a theft with a false identity, or theft by two or more persons or theft against the properties owned by the authorities mentioned in Article 5 and theft on cattle or animals are all examples of aggravated theft. Imprisonment for at least one year will be imposed on those who commit the above-mentioned theft. Article 388 defines the crime of theft committed by a workman in his workplace against his employer. For such crimes, the punishment will be imprisonment from 5 to 7 years.