Arrest in Dubai: Procedural Aspects

19 Apr 2022

On April 2021, twelve women were arrested in Dubai accused of public debauchery after an outdoor nude photoshoot. Public debauchery bears a sentence of up to six (6) months in prison plus UAE Dirhams five thousand (AED 5,000) fine. The arrest is the act of seizing someone and taking them into custody, and all persons who commit an offense in the UAE are subject to prosecution by the UAE’s authorities. As per article 121 of the UAE Constitution of 1971, the federation is authorized to pass laws regarding significant legislation related to penalty laws. Based on the Constitution, the federal legislator of UAE passed the Penal Code under Federal Law Number 3 of 1987 (the Penal Code). The Penal Code comprises of 434 articles, divided in two books:

  1. The general provisions (first book): it is divided into nine chapters: preamble provisions, Penal Code application Scope, crime, criminal responsibility and preventatives, penalty, pleas, stringent and relieved discretional circumstances, criminal plotting, social defense and comprehensive, criminal and judicial amnesty.
  2. Crimes and penalties (second book): they are divided into eight chapters: national security crimes and their interests, public office crimes, rule of justice violation crimes, public danger crimes, religious or ritual crimes, family crimes, individually incurred crimes, and financial crimes.

As an Islamic country, the first article of the Penal Code lays down that Islamic Sharia Provisions must apply to punishment, retribution, and blood money crimes. On the other hand, this Code has been amended by Federal Law Number 34 of 2005 and the Federal Law Number 52 of 2006.

According to the Penal Code, different situations lead to an arrest. First, an individual, organization, or governmental authority file a complaint at a police station, or a person is arrested while supposedly committing a crime. In the case of a non-violent crime or financial crime offenses, the suspect may be requested to give a declaration or to discuss the matter at a police station in the jurisdiction in which the complaint is filled. A lawyer can accompany the accused, but the lawyer cannot take a deposition. Based on the appreciation by the investigators during the deposition, an individual can be detained until formal detention is made or the prosecutor’s office rejects the case. An individual can be legally arrested for 48 hours at a local police station. Once transferred to the public prosecution, the prisoner can be under custody 24 hours before the official investigation starts. The prosecutor can expand the arrest of the suspicious for a maximum period of 14 days. The Court can as well extend the period of arrest for renewable, 30-day periods. For offenses where bail applies, a release is always reliant on meeting the conditions set for bail, challenging. There is no bond in the UAE, and agencies providing this facility are not acceptable to function in the UAE. The prosecutor’s bureau can file an official complaint and endorse charges and a formal capture. Following approbation of the complaint, a capture warrant is delivered to arrest the suspected offender, and an alert is allotted to all entry points and exit (travel ban). If the perpetrator is already in the police station’s custody with jurisdiction over the case, his/her statement should be officially taken within twenty-four (24) hours.

Arrest periods fall under federal jurisdiction and are equal across the UAE. The length of arrest periods is frequently affected by the level of bail mandatory for pre-trial issue, which is resolute on a case-by-case basis. For cases involving the distribution of narcotics, grievous injury, or death, bail is unlikely to be granted. In detention, local telephone calls are acceptable, but there is no privacy assurance because the information given over the phone may be contemplated as evidence. Furthermore, the UAE is not part of the Vienna Convention on Consular relations. Under the UAE Penal Code, crimes are divided into three (3) categories:

  1. Contraventions: any act or omission punishable under the laws, by one or both of the two (2) following consequences: custody for not less than twenty-four (24) hours and not more than ten (10) days and a fine not exceeding one thousand Dirhams (AED 1,000).
  2. Misdemeanors: any offence that is punishable by one or more of the following consequences: confinements, diyya and fine of more than a thousand dirhams (AED 10,000).
  3. Felonies: They are crimes punishable by one of the following consequences: life imprisonment, death penalty, temporary imprisonment and Diyya.


Investigation and Bail

Following the prosecution’s opinion, the official investigations are led to continue preparing for trial. At this moment, the prosecutions decide to continue detention or released the charged individual. According to the requirement of the investigation’s teams, the public prosecutor may grant arrest extensions (up to three days) if the arrested has not yet been decided bail. Seven (7) days can be for the first extension, thirty (30) days for the second and third extension (each one). The appeal shall be made within three (3) days of being informed by the Court that the extension will be applied. If the official investigation was finished, but new evidence is found or submitted by the original plaintiff, the authorities can choose to revive a case against the suspect. The prosecutor’s bureau is in charge of introducing the new evidence to the Court. Acceptance to reopen the case begins the procedures for the issue of an official arrest with charges. When the bail period has expired, the suspect can still be arrested if the bail/release order circumstances have not been met. Furthermore, bail may be a condition precedent to release, over which the public prosecutor has sole discretion. The public prosecutor can also choose to retain the accused’s passport. If the suspect does not have a passport, a guarantor’s passport may be essential to achieve release conditions.


Duration of a Trial and Conviction

According to the UAE Penal Code, punishment is divided into two categories: (1) Sharia-based and (2) Chastisement:

Detention periods bearded previous to a conviction and condemning are frequently applied as time served when considering release dates. As a Muslim Country, months and years are evaluated according to the Islamic calendar, which is lunar-based and consequently slightly shorter than the solar-based (Gregorian calendar system). If the person is found guilty, the person will have fifteen (15) days to appeal the guilty judgment. If the individual appeal, he/she will continue in custody until a hearing is apprehended before the Court of Appeal. The Court of appeal’s verdict can also be appealed to the Supreme Court, but only if the defense can maintain that an error was made in applying the law by one of the inferior courts.

Prison terms for minor faults may be replaced with civic service. Minor faults that are otherwise punishable by not more than six (6) months or a fine will be replaced by civic service of up to three (3) months. Public prosecutors supervise the execution of community service and obtain reports on the offender’s performance. On recommendation from prosecutors, the Court may order a prison term similar to the period of civic service if the criminals fail to discharge their obligations during the community payback period.


Mercy Intervention in Death Penalty Cases

In the UAE, the death penalty can be applied as a capital chastisement for crimes imperiling society’s security. It is infrequently carried out. Nevertheless, a panel of three judges shall agree on the decision of a verdict to death, and the death penalty may not be implemented until the UAE president establishes it. The following offenses carry a maximum punishment of death:

  1. Offenses affecting the security and interests of the country;
  2. Offenses are affecting the country’s internal security;
  3. Perjury, false oaths, and abstention from testifying;
  4. Crimes committed upon persons; and
  5. Drug trafficking.

Under Islamic law, if the court finds the perpetrator guilty of murder, only the victim’s family can ask for the death penalty or surrender that right and demand diyya. The UAE president cannot interfere. If a justifying excuse exists, or a case can be made for mercy, the death punishment may be commuted to life or temporary detention.

Clemency intervention is defined as any consular effort taken at any stage of the process after arrest to avoid the imposition of the death penalty or the verdict being carried out.