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Stealing a UAE plate number is a crime which may be punishable under the UAE laws. Stealing a number plate would fall under the definition of “theft” of the Federal Decree Law No 31 of 2021, more commonly known as the UAE Penal Code. The UAE Penal Code defines theft under Article 435 as:
“A theft means the taking of property belonging to a person other than the criminal and it shall be subject to the provisions of the following Articles.”
The punishment for theft varies depending upon the degree of crime committed. Typically, theft is punishable by jail sentence of at least six months or a fine. Having said that, Article 442 of the UAE Penal Code states that a theft committed in a means of transport is punishable with imprisonment of not less than one year. Article 441 also provides for imprisonment of up to seven years if theft is committed during night time and by a person carrying a weapon.
If a person has committed robbery by coercion or threat to use a weapon with the purpose of either keeping, obtaining or running away with the stolen goods, he shall be punished with imprisonment ranging between three years to fifteen years under Article 438 of the UAE Penal Code.
Any attempt to commit theft is punishable with half of the penalty prescribed for the full crime.
Therefore, stealing a UAE plate is a serious offence and should not be taken lightly.
Reduction of Sentence
Given the varying degrees of punishment provided under the UAE Penal Code, the question arises whether the court has the right to reduce the sentence of a person who has committed theft?
The answer to that is yes.
If the court believes that either the circumstances of the crime or the criminal itself require mercy in a felony charge, then the penalty of temporary imprisonment could be mitigated to a jail sentence for a period of at least three months under Article 99/3.
In case a mitigating excuse is established in a misdemeanor, where specific minimum limit is stated for the penalty, the court does not need to abide by such limit when assessing the penalty under Article 100.
What does the Court Say?
However, the above does not mean that the penalty could be converted into fine. This was held by the Federal Supreme Court in Case No 575 of 2020 in its hearing dated 7 September 2020, in which the accused had stolen a car which he subsequently sold. The court of first instance sentenced the accused to an imprisonment of two months. This penalty was amended by the appeals court to a fine.
On appeal to the Federal Supreme Court, the Federal Supreme Court noted that while the judge has the right to not adhere to the minimum penalty prescribed, provided a mitigating factor is established, it does not give the judge the freedom to assess the punishment according to what he deems appropriate and only impose a fine.