Felonies in the UAE: An Overview of Criminal case punishments in the UAE

20 Apr 2022

felony is traditionally considered a high seriousness crime, whereas a misdemeanor is regarded as less severe. The term felony originated from English common law to describe an offense that resulted in the confiscation of a convicted person’s land and goods. Additional punishments, which include capital punishment, may be considered. After a felony conviction in the Courts, a person can be classified as a convicted felon. Some common law countries and jurisdictions no longer classify crimes as felonies or misdemeanors. Instead, they use other distinctions, such as categorizing serious crimes as indictable offenses and less serious crimes as summary offenses. For example, in the United States, the government has defined a felony as a crime punishable by death or imprisonment over one year. If the crime is punishable by less than a year, it is categorized as a misdemeanor instead.


Classification by subject matter:

Felonies (just to name a few) can be classified as:

  • Murder
  • Aggravated assault
  • Manslaughter
  • Identity theft
  • Impersonation of a federal law enforcement officer with the intention of deception
  • Treason
  • Copyright infringement
  • Forgery
  • Threatening an official(police officer, judge)

In the wide aspect, felonies can be classified as either a violent or nonviolent crime. Violent offenses usually have a force or a threat of force against a person. Some jurisdictions classify as violent certain property crimes involving a substantial likelihood of psychological trauma to the property owner; In Virginia, for example, they treat both common-law burglary and statutory burglary as felonies.


Felonies in UAE

In the UAE, have you ever come across the news of a man being sentenced to 1 year imprisonment for raping a family member or a UAE expat that was deported for being inappropriate? Furthermore, an individual called the “car-park killer” was sentenced to 4 years for kicking a female to death. Have you also heard of the two men sentenced to capital punishment in Abu Dhabi for being caught selling AED 1,500 of marijuana to an undercover policeman? While cases such as these contain seemingly lenient or overly harsh sentencing, the Courts have maintained the rulings in line with the guidelines set out by the UAE Penal Code. The UAE Penal Code has received two amendments since its establishment and implementation; it serves the same grounds as any criminal code worldwide – to list the types of crimes recognized by the UAE jurisdiction and the penalties imposed on these offenses. 

Crime is divided into felony, misdemeanor, and minor offenses – with each category holding different sentences and punishments. For example, the punishment for a felony ranges from three years to life imprisonment and the death sentence, the penalty for a misdemeanor from one month to three years, and a minor offense from 24 hours’ detention to 10 days.


Defense in UAE- Self defence:

In the legislation, Articles 56 to 58 contains the provisions for self-defense. Article 56 starts by stipulating there will be no criminal offense for a case where an action performed is done so in self-defense. This clarification is the initial point used to commence the Article. It portrays a message that an effort to protect oneself or their property or an act that can be justified is permitted and will not lead to criminal liability. An example of a case of self-defense is where an Asian expat has murdered a co-worker. The co-worker attempted to harm the man with a knife and indeed succeeded in injuring them. However, acting in self-defense, the man managed to get hold of another knife, and the result was that the attacker received a mortal injury and died. However, any charges of murder did not stand and were dropped as this was seen as a legitimate act of self-defense following the points previously stated.


Involuntary Intoxication:

Involuntary intoxication is when an individual is deceived into ingesting a substance like drugs or alcohol or when an individual is forced to ingest something illegal. For example, a woman who has ingested a date rape drug put in the drink without her knowledge is intoxicated. Involuntary intoxication may also occur due to an allergy to, or the unintended effects of, a legal prescription medication. The intent is also important when considering involuntary intoxication. Did the defendant intend to get intoxicated? If not, involuntary intoxication is a defense for criminal charges if it prevents the defendant from forming the required intent. For instance, the defendant may not be aware of their actions or has no sense of mind when performing a criminal act. A typical example is the crime of assault, which requires an intent to cause harm. Suppose an individual becomes violent as a result of involuntary intoxication and commits an assault. In that case, one may argue that they were unable to form an intent.


Insanity plea:

The insanity defense refers to a reason that a guilty person can plead in a criminal trial. In an insanity defense, the defendant admits the action but asserts a lack of guilt or intent based on a mental problem. The insanity defense is not a justifiable reason. However, it can be an excuse.


Insanity v. Diminished Capacity:

Although the defense of diminished capacity bears some similarity to an Insanity plea, there are significant differences between them. A reason for insanity can be a full defense of a crime in a way that an insanity plea is the same as a not guilty plea. Diminished capacity, on the other hand, is merely pleading to a lesser crime. A diminished capacity defense can be used to negate the element of intent to commit a criminal act. 

A significant, landmark example of the insanity defense came in the United States v. Hinckley, which concerns the assassination attempt against President Ronald Reagan. The ”M’Naghten Rule”One of the first well known legal tests for insanity came in 1843, in the M’Naghten case. Englishman Daniel M’Naghten shot and killed the British prime minister’s secretary, believing that the Prime Minister was conspiring against him. The court acquitted M’Naghten due to insanity, and he was held in a mental hospital for the rest of his life. Due to the case causing a public outroar, an order by the Queen to hold stricter insanity plea standards was established. The M’Naghten rule” created a basic standard to be applied by the jury. The rule has created a presumption of sanity unless the defense proved that at the time of committing the act, the accused was suffering from mental health issues that he was not aware of what he was doing. This conclusion supports the criminal law’s fundamental conception of guilt. A defendant is not guilty for an act that he or she did not know he or she was committing because of a psychological infirmity. In the Traditional aspect, the M’Naghten test has been linked with schizophrenia and psychotic disorders. Since then, the M’Naghten rule has become the standard for insanity in common law countries such as the United States and the UK.