Arrested in the UAE? Here’s what you need to know

AE residents suspected of involvement in a minor crime can expect a telephone call from police asking them to go to the nearest police station for questioning; for a major crime an arrest warrant will be issued and a police patrol sent to make an arrest.

An overview of the State Security Security Court room at the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi.  Rich-Joseph Facun / The National
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UAE residents suspected of involvement in a minor crime can expect a telephone call from police asking them to go to the nearest police station for questioning.

If the offence is major, such as rape, murder, robbery and human trafficking, it is more likely that an arrest warrant will be issued and a police patrol sent to make the arrest.

Once at the police station the suspect is required immediately to give urine, blood and breath samples, regardless of the charge.

The suspect then faces police questioning, during which they will be asked about the alleged offence, whether they admit or deny involvement and if there are any witnesses who can testify for them.

Depending on their answers and the severity of the charge, they will either be set free or taken into custody.

In cases of minor crime, suspects can apply for police bail and will have to meet conditions to secure this, typically a cash deposit or a passport from the suspect or a close friend.

Police bail may not be available for more serious charges.

After interrogation police have 48 hours in which to refer the suspect to the public prosecution.

A public prosecutor based at the police station will then review the case file, which contains details of the offence, suspect, victim and witnesses.

This prosecutor will refer the case to a section of the prosecution department, usually based where the alleged crime took place.

A date will then be set for the suspect to be interrogated by prosecutors. Suspects who were not granted police bail now have a chance to apply for prosecution bail after the interrogation.

Suspects accused of minor crimes, such as writing bounced cheques, issuing verbal insults and embezzling small amounts of money, are more likely to be granted bail.

Cash bail varies from Dh500 for minor crimes to as much as Dh100,000 or more.

At this stage prosecutors will also speak to the victims and witnesses and may carry out their own investigations separate to police.

Charges will then be determined and a decision made as to what court should hear the case, such as the Criminal Court or Misdemeanours Court.

The case file will then be referred to the Court of First Instance, either Criminal or Misdemeanour, to set a date for the first hearing.

At the first hearing the suspect will be charged and given the chance to enter a plea. If the suspect does not speak Arabic, a translator will be provided by the court.

Translators of languages commonly used in the UAE are usually available from the court, but if no translator is available the prosecution will be ordered to provide one.

During the court hearings, suspects may present their defence arguments and in some types of crime – including assault, issuing threats, bounced cheques – may submit a waiver from the victim to the judge.

Waivers, which must be authorised by the notary public, can prompt the judge to dismiss the case, or issue a lighter sentence.

At the hearings stage defendants have the opportunity to again apply for bail.

For minor crimes, defendents can choose to represent themselves or to employ a lawyer.

If the defendant cannot afford a lawyer the court is not required to appoint one unless the charges are punishable by life in jail or death.

For minor crimes – such as petty theft, forgery of documents like a driver’s licence and issuing threats – if the defendant pleads guilty the court is not obliged to listen to witness testimony, but for major crimes such testimonies must be heard, regardless of the plea.

After all testimonies are heard a date is set to issue a verdict.

Those found guilty have 15 days to file an appeal. The prosecution is given the same amount of time to object and seek a harsher sentence or to overturn an acquittal.

Suspects on bail must renew their bail at the same time as submitting their appeal.

A date is then set for the first hearing at the Appeals Court. The suspect will appear once more, enter a plea and present his or her defence.

The court will take as many hearings as it sees fit to investigate the case before it sets a date for its verdict.

When the Appeals Court issues its verdict the suspect has 30 days to make a submission to the Cassation Court to seek a retrial.

This court is a technical court that examines the procedures used in the trial and decides whether these were legal or not. It is not concerned with the details of the case itself.

The Cassation Court usually requires just one or two hearings before deciding to either approve or deny the defendant’s submission.

If it approves the submission, the case is returned to the Appeals Court for a retrial. If it does not approve the submission, the Appeal Court’s first ruling stands.

This ruling is usually final, except in cases carrying the death sentence. In such cases the emirate’s Ruler must also approve the sentence if it is to be carried out.