How Theft is Considered as Felony?

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‘Theft’ under the UAE laws is governed pursuant to the provisions of the Federal Law No. 3 of 1987 promulgating the penal code and its amendments (‘UAE penal code’). Pursuant to articles 399 and 405 of the UAE penal code, the crime of theft is said to occur when intentional misappropriation of property happens with the intention to own property.

Article 405

Shall be subject to a jail sentence for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine not exceeding twenty thousand Dirhams, whoever knowingly misappropriated, with the intention to own, a lost property owned by someone else or if the said property was in his possession by mistake or by force majeure.

Article 399

Shall be subject to a jail sentence or to a fine, whoever succeeds in appropriating, for him or for others, movable property, a deed or a signature thereon, cancellation, destruction or amendment thereof through deceitful means or use of false name or capacity, whenever this leads to deceit the victim and have him give away shall be sentenced to the same penalty, whoever disposes of an immovable or movable property being aware that it is not his property, that he is not entitled to dispose of it or disposes of it knowing that he previously disposed of, or contracted, it whenever such act of disposition causes prejudice to others. Should the object of the crime be the property or a deed belonging to the State or tone of the bodies mentioned in Article 5, this shall constitute an aggravating circumstance. An attempt shall be punished by a jail sentence for a term not exceeding two years or a fine not in excess of twenty thousand Dirhams. When condemning the recidivist to a jail sentence for a period of one year or more, the court may order putting him under control for a maximum period of two years, provided it does not exceed the period of the adjudicated penalty.

Simple and Aggravated Theft:

In UAE, ‘theft’ itself is categorized as a ‘simple theft’ or an ‘aggravated theft’, wherein both types are differentiated mainly based on the ‘intent’. The punishments imposed also differ accordingly; in the instance of simple theft, the crime may be punishable with jail of six months to one year or a monetary fine, while aggravated theft may impose a higher penalty of imprisonment from 2 years to even up to fifteen years of imprisonment.

Depending on this classification, the crime of theft can be considered as either a ‘misdemeanor’ or a ‘felony’. We will discuss further the instances of aggravated theft which would be considered a felony in the UAE and imposes higher punishment.

Aggravated Theft:

In instances of Aggravated theft, often there is use of deadly weapons and the act in itself may include either violence or the threat of violence. The sentence for aggravated theft varies based on the intensity of the felony. For example: Theft with use of deadly weapons and causing injury to others can warrant a imprisonment sentence of fifteen years; Theft is committed during the night and with the use of weapons can warrant an imprisonment sentence of seven years or more; Theft committed by an employee during the term of this employment can warrant a sentence of five to seven years of imprisonment (Article 388 ) and an life term imprisonment may also be imposed if an aggravated theft is committed one or more armed persons together (Article 389).

The intention of the person while committing the crime is taken into account by the Courts while deciding the intensity of the punishment accorded. That said, motive is often immaterial while establishing the crime, however it can be taken into consideration subject to the discretion of the court while deciding the punishment. In other words committing the crime of theft due to dire need or circumstances will not absolve and they would be guilty of the crime.

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