UAE Attorney General downgrades penalties for drug and alcohol misuse

Courts given power to deal with more offences with fines instead of jail sentences

Captagon smuggled in hollowed-out oranges in the Beirut port in Lebanon. Tough sentences for drug smuggling remain in the UAE. AFP
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The Attorney General has given courts in the UAE the power to deal with more crimes using financial penalties instead of jail sentences.

The decision by Dr Hamad Saif Al Shamsi allows prosecutors to punish 13 further offences with a fine.

The list includes drug possession, public drunkenness and driving with a suspended licence.

A person caught with a quantity of drugs that would be classed as for personal use would not have to be sent to jail.

Someone caught with drugs would be fined between Dh10,000 and Dh30,000 ($2,720-$8,170) if it was their first offence, rising to Dh50,000 if it were their third.

Tough laws remain in place for drug smuggling, with a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum death sentence, if pursued by prosecutors.

In total, there are now 41 offences that would have carried jail terms that could now be dealt with by fines by prosecutors in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain. Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah have their own attorneys general and court systems.

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In a statement carried by state news agency Wam, Dr Al Shamsi said prosecutors aimed to “rapidly resolve lawsuits and provide innovative, judicial and legal services, which are in line with global trends, meet the needs of the community”.

It was published alongside a video that shows drug addicts in prison voicing regret for their actions and asking for a chance to reform themselves.

“The new anti-drug law considers the fact that some users are patients and victims of drug dealers,” the Wam article said.

The decision is the latest move in an extensive overhaul of the criminal system.

In January, minimum sentences for drug use were cut, mandatory deportation for non-citizens caught with drugs was dropped, and major emphasis was placed on rehabilitation. People caught with products containing cannabis or CBD oil now have the items confiscated rather than face prosecution.

Other measures effectively decriminalised consensual sex outside of marriage and removed penalties for having children out of wedlock, with the emphasis on child support and welfare.

Bounced cheques, minor driving offences and alcohol misuse

Updates to penalties include a fine of Dh20,000 against those who provide alcohol to people under the age of 21.

People who issue threats against others will be fined Dh10,000. There are fines for allowing an animal to threaten public safety.

Eavesdropping, reading a letter addressed to other people without their permission and trespassing will land offenders with a Dh5,000 fine.

A person drinking alcohol in public or causing unrest while drunk will be fined between Dh1,000 and Dh5,000 instead of a jail term.

A Dh250 fine will be issued against motorists who fail to follow rules and instructions put in place to regulate flow of traffic.

The updated list no longer includes offences related to eating publicly during daytime in Ramadan, which had rarely been imposed in recent years. All offences related to issuing cheques that bounce were removed from the list.

The following offences can be dealt with by paying a fine of between Dh1,000 and Dh2,000:

- disturbing other people

- wrongly burning property

- using someone else’s car, motorbike, or any other type of vehicle without permission

- damaging plants

- driving with a suspended licence

- driving without a licence

- unapproved switching of number plate from one car to another

- overstaying a visa

- helping others stay illegally in the country

- failing to arrange a residency visa for a newborn child.

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Updated: June 03, 2022, 4:36 AM