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Navigating the 2024 Criminal Law in the UAE

navigating the 2024 criminal law in the UAE blog by S & S Lawyers that is the leading law firm in sharjah, UAE consisting of experienced lawyers and advocates in Sharjah that provides high quality legal services to groups and individuals to help them with legal matters, including arbitration, civil, criminal law and crimes, real estate, personal status, and as well free legal consultation.


Knowing the right side of law in the UAE will actually save you all the trouble in the near future, but also knowing what to do when you get on the wrong side would also be helpful for each and everyone that is living in this beautiful country from the Middle East.

What is a Crime?

A crime is a deliberate act that causes physical or psychological harm, damage to, or loss of property, and is against the law. Any intentional commission of an act that are usually deemed socially harmful or dangerous and specifically defined, prohibited, and punishable under the criminal law.

Criminal behavior is defined based on the country’s specified prohibited behavior. For example is abortion, once prohibited except in the most unusual circumstances, is now lawful in many countries.

What is Criminal Law?

Criminal law is a set of rules that regulate the conduct of people and the sanctions for people who commit crimes and it follows the Sharia or Islamic Law. Elements of civil law and common law are incorporated into this law. Each countries has their own list of crimes, and UAE covers a wide range of it, including from the serious ones such as rape, homicide, or terrorism to the most minor ones like defamation, theft, and alcohol consumption.

In order to understand the criminal law in the UAE, you must understand the procedure for establishing the guilt of the offender or imposing the sentence are different depending on their territory.

What is Shariah’s influence on Criminal Law?

Shariah deeply influences the criminal legal system in the UAE, specifically in areas concerning moral and family laws. This incorporation of religious principles into state law makes the UAE different from the rest of other countries especially in the secular legal systems in the West. This approach from the country reflects a delicate equilibrium between respecting religious doctrines and fulfilling the demands of modern legal structures.

What are the differences between civil and criminal law?

Criminal law cases are concerns that allow a state to use several means of punishment for citizens who commit crimes. Its purpose is to punish people for behavior that harms society as a whole just so the public order can be maintained as well as the safety and integrity of property and people are guaranteed.

Civil law on the other hand, is responsible for governing private relationships between people. It includes different branches such as the law of people, family, obligations, property, and inheritance. And the most interesting thing that you can remember in order not to confuse civil and criminal law is that under criminal law, the attacker may have to pay very high fines or even jail time but in civil law, the dispute can be resolved with economic negotiation or a sanction imposed by a judge.

What are the types of crimes with severe punishments?

1. Drug-Related Offenses

It is very important to know the zero tolerance of the country towards drugs. The strict laws and policies at the local and federal levels to combat drug and drug trafficking is what people should be aware of. Specifically, the federal law number 14 of 1995 is about drug control in particular, it is the prohibition on the obtaining, export, import, transportation, sale, purchase, possession, and abuse of narcotics including other acts and activities on the topic of drugs.

Drugs are classified into two classes, which are:

- Narcotic drugs: Any artificial or natural substance belonging to annexes 1,2,3, and 4 of the narcotic drugs list such as cannabis, cocaine, heroine, methadone, nicomorphine, opium, and more.

- Psychotropic substances: Such examples are butalbital, ethinamate, barbital, aminorex, and other similar ones that belong to lists 5,6,7, and 8 in the narcotic drug law.

It is also important to note that pharmacies cannot and should not dispense psychotropic substances or narcotics unless there’s a prescription from a professional license to practice the profession in the UAE. Once a medical prescription is provided, it is only valid for a single use.

2. Sexual Assault and Related Crimes

Federal Law no. (3) of 1987 covers the articles 358, 359, 360, 361 and 363 for sexual crimes.

Article 358 establishes that the person who openly commits an indecent or shameful act must face a sanction. Particularly a custodial sentence of at least six months or more.

Article 359 states that a person dishonoring a woman verbally or physically in a public place intentionally has to face punishment. A prison sentence of a maximum of 1 year and 10,000 AED is the expected penalty, as well for the people that are wearing women’s clothing and enter women-only places.

Article 360 establishes that anyone who publicly transmits lewd gestures or messages to passers-by must face a sanction of imprisonment for a minimum duration of six months.

Article 361 is for those who publicly send out lewd speeches, sing, appeal, and seduce someone have to face a punishment of a prison sentence lasting a maximum of six months and a fine of at least 5,000 AED.

Article 363 states that inciting or persuading a minor, man or woman to engage in prostitution or helping them in the act must face a punishment of a minimum sentence in jail for two years and a massive fine.

3. Traffic-Related Offenses

The new regulations of UAE from July 1, 2017 aims to protect the lives of road users and reduce traffic victims. Some of the rules are:

- Passengers in a car must wear their seatbelt, failure to do so will result in the driver being fined AED 400 as well as receiving 4 black points.

- If drivers are caught under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, there will be a 1 year suspension of their license and the court will also be in charge of deciding the fine and/or prison sentence.

- Ignoring traffic lights will result in a fine of AED 1,000 and 12 black points as well as confiscating your vehicles for a month.

- Meanwhile, reckless driving carries a fine of AED 2,000, 23 black points and an impoundment of your vehicle for a period of 60 days.

4. Fraud and Financial Crimes

Money laundering is one of the crimes related to financial crimes and fraud, it is an illegal activity of moving or rearranging the money/product and hiding its origin.

According to Article 451 of the UAE Penal Code, the unlawful appropriation of property in order to obtain benefits and deceiving the victim using fraudulent methods will be considered fraud that is punishable by a fine or jail.

Breach of trust is an act of embezzlement, dispersal or unauthorized use of funds or movable property after they were entrusted to an individual based on agreements like deposits, leases, mortgages, loans, or agencies.

5. Homicide or Murder

Murder is said to be the killing of another individual who intends to do such an act without the permission of the law or authority. The law that covers this is Federal law number 3 of 1987 of the penal code which outlines the penalties for crimes that endanger people’s lives and safety in the UAE. Such acts are considered serious crimes with the penalty of life imprisonment.

Premeditated murder will result in the death penalty, it is an act of murder associated with or related to another crime where the offender does not hesitate to commit two crimes.

Punishment for the offenders are heavily affected by the Shariah Law, with the court carrying out multiple processes such as consulting the blood relatives of the deceased and taking their choice from a list of options they were given before the court convicts the offender.

What is the role of technology in the evolution of Criminal Law in the UAE?

Information technology began to drive almost every aspect of modern life, making changings in communications, law, economics, commerce, and business development. Criminal law in the UAE has evolved a lot in the last few years, and technology has played a massive role in this. The evolution of cybercrime has obviously evolved in more than one way possible which has caused companies to apply solid data protection policies, and the UAE is constantly making changes in their laws to combat the new crimes associated with information technology and as well to improve the response to other types of crimes.

Seeking Legal Assistance in the UAE

The criminal law in the UAE is not far behind and has evolved to adapt to certain changes. And when it comes to issues relating to criminal law, finding the right lawyers and law firm to help you is important, those with years of experience in the field are recommended to seek legal assistance from as they can massively help you navigate through the processes. S & S Lawyers are criminal lawyers that can narrow down your list, their office in Al Hind Tower, Corniche Rd. Al Khan, Sharjah, UAE is open from Monday to Friday.


The United Arab Emirates is constantly making changes in their laws in order to protect women, domestic staff, and public security in the country. The more knowledge you have about these rules, the more chances of avoiding committing such mistakes in the near future, and the UAE will continue to make amendments in order to make the country one of the safest places in the world.

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