The Federal Law No. (35) of 1992 concerning the criminal procedural law specifies the procedures for criminal cases in the UAE. The law, which was issued by late HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan on June 15, 1992, comprises a set of rules that describe the methodology and procedures for criminal investigation, the trial of accused, rendering Judgment, conditions for appealing Judgment at upper courts and the enforcement of Judgment.
The law seeks to strike a fine balance between the respect for personal freedom of individuals and the protection of public interest, while taking appropriate measures to ensure that no criminal escapes unpunished. It is, therefore, important for everyone who lives in the country, to be aware of his rights and obligations in the light of UAE Criminal Procedural Law as well as the procedures for investigation, trial, indictment and Judgment, among others.
Based on the free translation of the criminal procedural law, this article aims to provide you with a general idea of the criminal procedures in the UAE. However, it does not necessarily represent a legal advice or assistance in case you are submitting a complaint or involved in a particular criminal lawsuit where you might need the assistance of a criminal lawyer.
Rights and Obligations of Citizens According to Criminal Procedural Law:
No criminal penalty may be imposed on anyone without proving his guiltiness according to the law. No one may be arrested, searched, detained or imprisoned except under the circumstances and conditions mentioned in the law. Detention or imprisonment may only take place in places designated for that purpose and for the period specified in the warrant issued by the competent authority – Article (2).
Members of the public authority (i.e. law enforcement authorities such as police) may not enter into any place of residence except under the circumstances specified in this law or in case of a request for assistance from inside or under a serious threat on life or property – Article (3).
Whoever comes to know about the occurrence of a crime that the public prosecution can file a criminal action without a complaint or request must report it to the public prosecution or a judicial officer (i.e. criminal investigation officer) – Article (37).
Anyone witnesses the offender committing a felony or misdemeanour should hand him over to the nearest public authority without the need for an arrest warrant – Article (48).
The accused can ask the court to compensate him for the prejudice suffered due to the malicious accusation made by the victim or the accuser. Upon the request of the accused, the criminal court shall ask whoever is found to have made a false deposition or accusation to compensate the accused for the damage – Article (25).
Rights to an Attorney:
Anyone accused of a felony (or a serious crime) punished by a death sentence or life imprisonment may have a lawyer to defend him at the trial stage. If the accused did not appoint a lawyer, the court shall provide him with a lawyer whose fees are to be incurred by the state as provided by the law.
The accused in a felony punished by provisional imprisonment may also ask the court to provide him with an attorney in his defence after verifying his financial inability to hire a lawyer – Article (4).
Initiating and Pursuing Criminal Action:
Public prosecution has the exclusive jurisdiction to file and pursue a criminal case except in the circumstances specified by the law – Article (7).
A complaint shall be submitted to the public prosecutor or to a judicial officer (i.e. criminal investigation officer). If the accused was caught red handed, the complaint may be submitted to any public authority officer (i.e. police officer) attending the scene of incident – Article (11).
Investigation and Arrest of the Convict:
The judicial officer, upon his arrival at the crime scene (or a red-handed crime) shall prevent people present at the scene from leaving it or going away until a report is drafted. The officer can also immediately call upon anyone who may have any clarification about the incident to give his statement – Article (44).
The judicial officer may order the arrest of the accused present at the scene of the incident with sufficient evidence for his perpetration of crime under the circumstances mentioned in the Article (45) of the law.
If the accused is not present, the judicial officer may issue an arrest warrant which has to be stated in the report. The arrest warrant should be enforced by one of the public authority officers – Article (46).
The judicial officer should hear the statements of the accused immediately after his arrest, and if the accused does not present anything that substantiates his innocence, he should be sent to the relevant public prosecution within 48 hours. The Public Prosecution shall question him within 24 hours and then order either his arrest or release – Article (47).
Search of Persons and Residences:
The judicial officer may search the accused under circumstances where his arrest is allowed as per the law and the accused may be frisked for what would be in his body, clothes or belongings from the remnants or things related to the crime or required for the investigation – Article (51).
If the accused is a female, the search should be carried out by a female assigned by the judicial officer after taking oath that she would perform her duties honestly and truthfully. The witnesses attending the inspection should also be females – Article (52).
Judicial officers may not search the defendant’s home without a written permission from the public prosecution (search warrant) unless the crime was committed red handed with strong hints that the accused was hiding in his house objects or papers which may unearth the truth. The search and the seizure of objects and papers should be carried out in the manner specified by the law – Article (53).
Public Prosecution Investigation:
The public prosecution initiates the investigation on its own in serious crimes as well misdemeanours where deemed necessary – Article (65).
The investigation shall be carried out in Arabic.
In case the accused, the litigating parties, the witnesses or others whose statements are deemed critical by the public prosecutor do not know Arabic, the prosecution may seek the help of an interpreter who should take an oath that he would perform his duties honestly and truthfully – Article (70).
Jurisdiction Over Criminal Cases:
Except for the criminal cases that come under the jurisdiction of the Federal Supreme Court, the jurisdiction over the felonies is for the Court of First Instance, referred to in the law as the Felonies Criminal Court, which comprises three judges. A single bench within the Court, referred to in the law as the Misdemeanours Criminal Court, has the jurisdiction over all cases of misdemeanours and petty offences – Article (139).
Notification of Parties:
If a case was referred to a Criminal Court, the public prosecution shall ask the accused to appear before the competent court specified in the referral order – Article (156).
The summons notification to appear before the court should be served prior to the court sitting by at least one full day in minor offences and 3 days in misdemeanours and 10 days in felonies – Article (158).
Appearing before the Court and Hearing the Case:
The accused shall appear before the court personally in felonies or misdemeanours carrying a punishment other than a fine. In other misdemeanours and petty cases, he may delegate an attorney in his defence without prejudice to the right of the court to order him to appear in person – Article (160).
The hearing should be public. However, the court, considering public order or morals, may decide to hear the case entirely or partly in a closed session or prevent certain persons from attending it – Article (161).
The accused should be presented before the Court without handcuffs and shackles, but under the necessary observation – Article (164).
The trial starts by calling on the parties and the witnesses, and asking the defendant about his name, surname, profession, nationality, place of residence and place of birth. After that the charge against him shall be recited, and the public prosecution and the party claiming damage, if any, shall present their respective claims. The accused is then asked whether he admits the charges against him, and if so, the court may accept his confession and issue a verdict without hearing the depositions of witnesses. If he did not admit, the court shall hear the testimony of witnesses unless the crime is punishable by a death sentence where the court shall complete the investigation – Article (165).
The court, during the hearing, may summon and hear the statements of any person even if it requires an arrest warrant – Article (172).
If the witness fails to appear before the Court after being summoned, he may be ordered to pay a fine not exceeding AED 1,000 after hearing the statements of the public prosecution – Article (173).
Special Procedures for Misdemeanours and Minor Offences:
If the party legally summoned failed to attend before the court on the day specified in the summons paper or did not send his representative in cases where a representative is allowed, the court will issue Judgment in absentia. Article (189).
Issuance of Judgment:
The judge may decide in the case based on his personal conviction. However, he may not base his Judgment on any evidence that was not submitted by the parties during the hearings – Article (209).
The verdict is pronounced in an open court session even if the case was heard in a closed session, and it must be recorded in the minutes signed by the session president and the court clerk – Article (210).
If the incident was not proven or was not punishable by the law, the court shall acquit the accused, and set him free if he was imprisoned for this incident alone – Article (211).
If the incident was proven and punishable by the law, the court shall order an appropriate punishment – Article (212).
Each of the accused and the public prosecution may challenge the ruling issued by the Courts of First Instance in a criminal action.
The Judgment carrying a death sentence is appealable by its own legal right and its execution is stayed – Article (230).
The appeal is filed through a report submitted to the clerk of the Court of Appeal within 15 days from the date of pronouncing the Judgment – Article (234).
The public prosecution, the convicted, and the party claiming damage have the right to challenge the final ruling rendered by the Court of Appeal at the Court of Cassation in a felony or misdemeanour under the circumstances specified in the Article (244).
Review of Judgment:
A request to review a final ruling that imposes a punishment or measure may be submitted to the competent court under the circumstances specified by the Article (257).
Execution of the Judgment:
The public prosecution is in charge of enforcing Judgments in all criminal cases brought before the court and it may directly seek, when necessary, the assistance of the public authority – Article (272).
Criminal Procedural Law – UAE E-Legal Portal. Further details on procedures for criminal cases can be found under the UAE Criminal Procedural Law – UAE E-Legal Portal.
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