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Overview: Criminal Law: Theft – Provisions, remedies, and procedure in the UAE

Published on : 08 Apr 2021

Criminal Law: Theft – Provisions, remedies, and procedure in the UAE


Theft may only be perpetrated on an actual movable property that has monetary or nonmonetary value and belongs to someone else. Theft is described as the physical seizure of an object that can be stolen from the owner without his or her permission, with the intent of depriving the owner of the item for all time. The accused intends to hold the property for himself or to destroy, sell, or abandon it in a location where the owner will not find it. The UAE's Civil Transactions Law describes the property as "all that you can take into your custody." There are, however, crimes that are similar to theft but are committed on non-movable properties such as feelings, concepts, and intellectual property. Different articles of law govern certain crimes.

Anything that can be taken into custody is called a house, according to FEDERAL LAW NO. 3 of 1987. As a result, shoplifting, breaking into private residences to steal objects, and embezzling money are all called theft. The provisions of Federal Law Number 3 of 1987 of the UAE Penal Code refer to theft committed within the UAE.

The law of the UAE, like most other countries’ laws, distinguishes between theft and robbery based on how the crimes were committed. Robbery is similar to robbery, but it differs in that it involves the commission of theft combined with the use of violence or coercion in order to ensure the victim's escape from his or her home or place. Furthermore, since robbery requires the use of force or abuse, the penalty for robbery is normally stricter than the punishment for stealing. Victims are recommended to obtain legal advice from top Dubai Criminal Lawyers to decide the process for filing a lawsuit against the accused and the types of documentation needed to prove the crime against the accused in both cases.

It necessitates the existence of mens rea and actus rea, as in all crimes. Theft must require an unintentional handover of the object in order to be considered theft under UAE law. It is a breach of trust offense, if the owner of the object knowingly hands over the object for safekeeping and the keeper keeps it for himself because it does not fulfil the criterion of an involuntary handover. On the other hand, money handed over by mistake and held by the accused in cases involving money exchange houses is called theft. The question of' informed will' occurs when items are hidden within other objects and passed on by chance.

However, while theft may not be proven in such situations, a breach of trust under Article 405 of the Penal Code may be charged. Objects handed over based on the accused's deceit are covered by Article 399 of the Criminal Code. As a consequence, creating theft involves the absence of a free and informed will. Mens rea for the crime must be present at the time of the crime or prior to it. Mens rea for a crime that occurs after the fact is not mens rea for that crime.

It is not theft when the owner releases the property from his possession and custody, and it is taken by someone else. As a result, objects left near the garbage with the intention of relinquishing ownership are not considered theft if they are taken. Continuing with the same example, if the trash company takes these things into their possession and someone steals them, it is theft because custody and ownership have been re-established. A property forgotten by another, on the other hand, if taken, is a breach of confidence because ownership is unknown.

There is also an exception to the 'property belonging to another' condition. When a property is used as a protection against a loan, such as a security cheque in the case of a mortgage, even if the property belongs to the owner, taking it is considered theft. The same law applies to property owned by the police for investigative purposes or by a debtor in his custody for guardianship.

The rule also extends to cases requiring temporary custody. Taking anything from inside a sealed envelope intended for another person or a key given to display an apartment are both examples of temporary custody, and taking anything from the envelope or the property will be stealing in both cases. When custody shifts to partial custody, such as when a rented apartment is stolen, the resulting crime is a breach of confidence.

When two parties enter into a purchase arrangement, and one party takes possession without meeting the payment conditions, the courts have found that it is a fraud because the agreement is incomplete without receiving the full consideration. Consumption in supermarkets has long been the subject of legal controversy on both sides; however, consuming in a supermarket does not constitute theft because mens rea is necessary. If the intent to pay is there, it cannot be theft, but if the mens rea for the crime is there and there is no intent to pay for the consumed food, it shall be theft.

Also, holding something that was turned over for partial custody for oneself is a violation of confidence, not stealing. Giving your car to the driver and having him keep it for himself is a breach of trust since the handover was voluntary, just as giving money to a servant to purchase food from the store and having him keep it for himself is a breach of trust.

The essence of the offence is often determined by the form of custody. In the case of partners, one may only be accused of this if the item was previously only possessed by one partner and is now shared by both. When something is jointly owned, it can only be called theft if one party takes sole possession of the item and forbids the other from using it. Custody is also critical in distinguishing between attempted and real robbery. It is a fraud, according to the statute, if the item is taken into the accused's full custody. Any action taken to plan for a robbery is not considered an attempt, but any action taken to begin committing the theft is considered an attempt. The court's decision on whether the custody was full or partial is left to its discretion.

Acts that involve permits, such as fishing, are not known as theft because the property or object of theft is a natural commodity, such as fish in the sea, and therefore not solely under the jurisdiction of the state. As a result, such offences are prosecuted under various statutes.

The motive for a theft offence is insignificant. In cases where stealing is committed under duress, such as when a person is starving, the judge's discretion as to mens rea and motive would apply.

The Various Forms of Theft

The UAE Penal Code divides theft into two categories: aggravated theft and simple theft.

Depending on two key factors, mental intent ("mens rea") and criminal act ("actus reus"), theft offences are categorized as "aggravated" or "easy." Involuntary possession of stolen goods, on the other hand, maybe called fraud.

The penalties for these forms of theft are detailed in Articles 381 to 398 of the Penal Code.

Simple theft is a crime punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a monetary fine. It is often graded according to the site of the crime, the manner in which the crime was committed, or the identity of the victim. Simple theft is committed in some situations such as;

  1. During a battle, on a wounded person.
  2. By impersonating a public attribute or pretending to conduct or be in charge of public service.
  3. In a mode of transportation, a station, a harbour, or an airport.
  4. In one of the places of worship.
  5. On cattle or on animals that are being carried or ridden.
  6. By a group of two or more individuals.
  7. Climbing over the fence, breaking in from the outside, and using duplicated or genuine keys without the consent of the owners.
  8. Either of the populated or habitable areas or one of its annexes.
  9. Employees of ministries and government agencies, as well as land owned by a public body.

Other types of simple theft that don't fit into the aforementioned categories include:

  1. Disruption of information transmission or provision of any government service, such as the abuse of telecommunication services or the removal of the power source of any system used to deliver such services.
  2. Use of another person's vehicle, such as a car or a scooter, without their permission. A minimum of one year in prison and a fine of not more than AED 10,000 will be the penalty for such an act.
  3. Coercion is the act of compelling others to sign or cancel a contract or a deed.

Aggravated Theft

Aggravated theft applies to acts that result in a crime, such as murder, which includes the use of lethal weapons.

When a person uses guns and threats to compel another person to surrender his or her property, this is referred to as aggravated theft. Other examples include when an individual impersonates a public servant, unlawfully enters private property, or engages in some other illegal method to acquire property that belongs to someone else.

Aggravated theft offenders will be sentenced to jail, with the length of sentence varying depending on the type of crime committed. The following are some examples:

  1. The maximum term of 15 years in prison:
  • Arms are used, and a victim is injured as a result.
  1. 2 to 7 years in jail, or life in prison
  • Use of weapons

  • Theft committed in the middle of the night

  1. About 5 and 7 years in jail

  • Over the course of an employee's job, he or she commits theft.
  1. Life imprisonment
  • Two or more people are involved

The Legal Procedure

Articles 381-398 of the UAE Penal Code (Federal Law No. 3 of 1987) define the crime of theft in its literal sense and the penalty for it. The Penal Code divides theft into two different categories: simple and aggravated theft. The former is simple in nature and is considered a misdemeanour, while the latter requires the use of weapons or coercion and is almost always punishable by life imprisonment.

Simple robbery is not as simple as it seems, and it can result in a one-year jail term or a fine. Furthermore, a simple theft can occur at a place of worship, a residence, any mode of transportation, on an injured war victim, an individual transporting livestock, driving someone else's car without permission, or misappropriating any government services such as telephonic or electric lines.

An aggravated theft, on the other hand, can be charged as mentioned below;

  • A theft committed through the use of weapons in which the weapon was used to kill the victim, with a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison;
  • Theft committed at night, with two or more people, with the use of arms and firearms, by personification as a public official, and the use of danger are some of the situations in which the accused may be sentenced to life in jail.
  • Theft committed by an employee during working hours is punishable by a maximum sentence of seven years in jail.

The Penalties for theft

Theft is the illegal taking and expelling of another person's property with the intent of holding it without his permission. It's also known as cheating, and it's broken down into the following categories:

  • Shoplifting and Fraud
  • Burglary
  • Misappropriation
  • Robbery

Theft includes a sentence of imprisonment ranging from a half year to three years, as well as a fine. Attempted robbery, on the other hand, carries a sentence of imprisonment ranging from 3 months to a year and a half, as well as a fine. When theft is committed between close relatives, parents, and children or companions, and no outsider rights are present, and the public prosecutor can only prosecute the other party on the complaint registry.

Second, attempted theft may be considered aggravated if a weapon is used with the intent to steal or to inflict physical harm, including injury incurred when trying to protect oneself. In such cases, the penalty is a prison term ranging from 3 to 15 years. In addition, if the offender possesses a firearm that falls under the category of a weapon by default, it would be considered an aggravating offence. If the accused carries a firearm during a robbery and it is recognized as a weapon by use, it is considered an aggravated situation only if the expectation of carrying it was to use it. The court, on the other hand, has the power to determine whether or not an individual has the intent to carry a firearm. Similarly, in cases of robbery committed at night, the judge must determine the accused's motive in any given situation.

Additional aggravated offences are mentioned in Article 389 of the Penal Code, which includes theft committed in a place of worship, schools, residences, and banks, whether or not they are occupied with people. Specifically, any limitations on public entry or the use of a key without permission, as well as any act that causes public property harm by theft.

Theft committed by a paying representative (employee), not a volunteer, in the workplace is punishable by imprisonment for 5-7 years under Article 388. Furthermore, anybody who uses a car, a motorcycle, or a similar vehicle without the consent of the owner or who has the option to use it will be punished with a year of detention or a fine of not more than AED 10,000.

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