The vast majority of foreign business owners, employees and visitors to the United Arab Emirates will not experience any type of issues with the criminal law systems. However, it is also not uncommon for a foreign individual to find themselves charged with a criminal offense in Dubai that may not be an issue that would result in a criminal charge in their own country of citizenship or past residence.
Residents and citizens of the UAE and specifically of the Emirate can also expect to have the need for a criminal lawyer under specific situations. Depending on the type of charge and the crime alleged, the need for a lawyer may be significant, or there may not be an immediate concern.
For those visiting Dubai or traveling to the area for work or pleasure, it is a good idea to read information from reputable sources online to understand where the laws in Dubai may be very different from the laws in Western countries. Issues such as consuming alcohol, public displays of affection and the possession or use of illegal drugs are significant in Dubai and throughout the UAE, something that is not typically the case in many countries around the world.
Depending on the significance of the crime, and if you are living in Dubai or just visiting, the notification that you are charged with a crime in the UAE is often very different than in other areas of the world.
It is not uncommon for residents of Dubai to receive a phone call from the police with a request to appear at a specific police station for a minor charge. This is often a very low-key phone call, with the expectation that the individual contract by the police will arrive for the interview at the agreed upon time and location.
These types of requests by phone are common for minor crimes when serious criminal charges are not a consideration. For more significant and serious types of charges, the police will arrive at the individuals home or work or at their hotel and make an arrest, which is typical in most locations around the world.
What may be unusual for those not familiar with the procedures after an arrest in the United Arab Emirates is the requirement to provide blood, urine, and breath samples. This is not an option nor can a criminal lawyer in Dubai make a statement that limits or prevents the police from taking these samples. The samples will be taken even with a minor charge and if the charge is not related to any type of alcohol or drug consumption, possession or trafficking type of activity.
Once at the police station and after the samples have been provided, the person arrested or required for questioning will meet with police. While the criminal lawyer can be in those questioning sessions, there is no legal representation at this time.
In other parts of the world, the criminal lawyer will represent the client from the initial point of contact. The attorney may answer questions or direct the client not to speak to police in other parts of the world, but in UAE the lawyer does not have this ability or authority.
During the questioning, the person charged will be asked a series of questions related to the crime and the possible charges. The individual is expected to answer fully and completely. There will also be questions about witnesses who may be able to substantiate the story, including those who would be able to provide backing to an alibi for the crime.
Once this is completed, the individual will be released if the charges are minor, usually even if the individual accepts guilt for the offense. If the charges are significant and there is an acknowledgment of guilt or the police find the reason to believe there is guilt, the individual will be taken into custody. Bail is often requested for minor charges and rarely is bail granted for significant charges in the UAE.
For foreign individuals that are able to get bail, it will be part of the agreement to surrender your passport. This prevents the individual from leaving the country before the legal issue is resolved. This is not uncommon in countries around the world as the risk of the individual fleeing the country is always a concern for the prosecution.
The Next Steps
For minor crimes, there is no requirement for the courts in the UAE to provide legal representation. Individuals have the right to retain a criminal lawyer, which is an important step as there is the possibility for the lawyer to be able to negotiate a plea bargain or even to have the charges dismissed under some conditions.
For more significant charges, the criminal lawyer will be essential to develop a defence for the charges. Making the choice of a top law firm and criminal lawyer will be important as some charges can carry significant jail time as well as fines.
The most serious crimes that carry the potential of a death sentence should only be handled by an experienced criminal lawyer. While the court will appoint a public defender for those charged with these crimes, hiring the best possible attorney is always in the best interests of the individual that has been charged.
After the police questioning is the ideal time to retain a criminal lawyer in Dubai. Within 48 hours the police inform the prosecutor, and then a review of the answers from the questioning as well as the victim and witness statement occurs. The prosecutor then decides if the case should move forward.
The individual charged will be contacted to appear for another interrogation, this time by a prosecutor. Once this is completed most people not released on bail will be able to request bail. This may not be a possibility for serious crimes.
The police and the prosecution team complete a full investigation based on the information, interrogation results and witness and victim interviews. At this point, the prosecutor will determine if the case should be heard by the court and which court the person charged will appear before.
If a criminal law attorney is not involved at this time, it is critical to hire an experienced legal representative. While it is possible to represent yourself in UAE courts, and a translator will be provided for non-Arabic speakers, it is a complex legal system.
An experienced criminal law attorney will be able to not only provide a reasonable defence to the charges but also provide you with information on the steps involved and the different options as the case proceeds. This is often a longer process than in other courts and having someone with knowledge of the process and what to expect will be essential.
In the UAE, as in other areas of the world, criminal charges, no matter how minor they may seem, should never be taken lightly. Confusion about legal issues, particularly those that may include Sharia Law, should always be managed by an experienced criminal lawyer. Trying to represent yourself, even as a UAE national, is the least effective option and one that may result in more significant changes and sentencing. Click here for more information.