With the transient nature of this country, there are a number of misconceptions about the UAE criminal law, especially among expatriates. Hassan Elhais, Legal Consultant in Dubai, Femina ME’s guest columnist, tells us about some of them.

Showing an indecent gesture

Unlike some other countries where indecent actions or gestures are not seriously looked at, UAE has strict rules when it comes to such indecent gestures/actions. As per the UAE Federal Law No. 3 of 1987 (the Penal Code), “Whoever openly commits an indecent and disgraceful act shall be punished by detention for a period of at least six months. Whoever commits a disgraceful act with a girl or boy who has not completed fifteen years of age even if it is not committed openly, shall be punished by detention for at least a period of one year.”

Such gestures might result in the person being jailed or deported if the court is satisfied with the evidence produced. Satisfactory evidence in such instances would be CCTV camera footage or witness statements by a third-party.

The court in such instances would have discretionary powers, Article 121 of the Penal Code, to add a deportation sentence on the culprit if proven guilty. Article 121 reads, “If a foreigner has been sentenced to a custodial penalty in a felony or misdemeanor, the court may call in its judgment for the deportation of the convicted foreigner from the state. Deportation orders shall also apply to felonies perpetrated on the honour.”

Private lenders charging high interest is illegal

It is common practice in UAE where people in urgent need of money take loans from private lenders against extremely high interest. It needs to be noted that if a person obtaining such loans from an unauthorized private lender reports it to the police, the lender can face criminal charges against him. Article 409 to 412 of the UAE Federal Law No. 3 of 1987 (the Penal Code) deals with the issue of usury.

Article 409 of the Penal Code states, “Punishment by detention for at least three months and a fine of at least two thousand Dirhams shall be inflicted upon any natural person who deals with another natural person by usury interest in any kind of civil or commercial transaction, including any express or latent condition that involves usury interest.”

As per Article 411 of the Penal Code, recipient of the money in a private lending arrangement can file a complaint with the police stating that the lender took advantage/exploited of his circumstances by charging high interest. Article 412 of the Penal code provides that “Any natural person who acquires a habit of lending with interest shall be punished by imprisonment for a period of at most five years.”

Drug addicts may turn themselves in without criminal implications

Drug addicts who voluntarily turn themselves in and request treatment will face no criminal charges or deportation.

Article 43 of UAE Federal Law No. 14 of 1995 (the Anti-Drug Law) provides that addicts who voluntarily approach the Public Prosecution and seek help for treatment will not face criminal charges. In such cases, addicts will need to voluntarily hand over drugs in their possession to competent authorities. Notwithstanding the above, if the addict who turns himself in the refuse treatment they will face legal action even if they hand over the drugs.