What Happens If You Steal In Dubai? Dubai Theft Laws

As per Federal Law No. 3 of 1987 in the United Arab Emirates, any item that can be possessed or taken by someone without the owner’s consent is considered theft. This law establishes the legal definition of theft and sets the groundwork for its consequences in the UAE. 

  • Section 383 imposes a life sentence for theft when committed at night, by multiple individuals, with arms involved, or under duress or physical force.
  • Section 384 states that committing theft in public areas or at any means of transport can lead to life or temporary imprisonment.
  • Section 388 imposes a minimum of five years in jail for theft committed by an employee on their employer’s premises.
  • Section 389 covers theft in places of worship, transport stations, or when impersonating a public officer, with a minimum jail term of three year.
  • Section 395 addresses individuals who leave restaurants or hotels without paying their bills, which can result in up to six months in jail and/or a fine.
  • Section 399 deals with acquiring a deed or signature by force, leading to temporary imprisonment.
  • Section 405 outlines penalties for misappropriating lost items intentionally. Such theft may result in a jail sentence of up to two years or a fine of up to Dh 20,000.

What Are The  Laws Regulating Theft And Punishments?

What Are The  Laws Regulating Theft And Punishments

The penalties for theft in the UAE are not one-size-fits-all; they depend on several factors. These factors include the value of the stolen items, the circumstances surrounding the crime, and the offender’s intent.

For minor thefts, such as shoplifting or small-scale theft, the punishment may involve fines and relatively short jail terms. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from engaging in unlawful activities.

In more severe or aggravated cases, theft can lead to significant imprisonment sentences, ranging from several years to life sentences. 

Section 383

Section 383 of the criminal code in Dubai carries significant legal weight in the fight against theft and robbery. It stipulates that individuals who violate certain conditions when committing theft can face the gravest penalty a life sentence in prison. These conditions include thefts that occur at night, involve multiple individuals, the use of weapons, or the application of physical force or coercion. 

Furthermore, it encompasses cases where thieves employ cunning tactics like breaking and entering, employing fake keys, assuming false identities, or even scaling fences.

The intent behind this law is clear: to establish severe consequences for theft and robbery, thereby deterring potential criminals who fear harsh punishment. The law reflects the community’s collective desire to protect personal and public property. 

Section 384

This section of the criminal code introduces the Serious Crime Act, a legal provision aimed at curbing theft occurring on public roads, highways, or during the use of public transportation. 

Offenders found guilty of such crimes face severe penalties, which can either be life imprisonment or a shorter prison term. The primary goal of this law is to serve as a deterrent, ensuring the safety and security of individuals who utilize public transportation and frequent public areas.

The Serious Crime Act also accounts for unique circumstances that might lead to an increase in these penalties. This includes prior criminal records, violations of other laws, and the use of dangerous weapons during the theft. 

Furthermore, if any harm is inflicted on another individual during the commission of the offense, the punishment escalates even further. This emphasizes that individuals found guilty of committing theft in or along public roads and transport systems will face substantial consequences for their actions, reinforcing the commitment to maintaining public safety.

Section 38

Section 38 of criminal law addresses a significant offense related to employee theft. It establishes that any employee involved in theft from their employer or on the employer’s premises may be subject to a minimum prison sentence of five years and a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment. Notably, this punishment can be applied regardless of the monetary value of the stolen items.

This legal provision is designed to safeguard employers from potential exploitation by current or former employees who could pose a substantial risk of financial losses. By imposing these penalties, the law aims to deter theft within the employment context and ensure the protection of employers’ interests and assets.

Section 389

Section 389 specifically addresses theft-related offenses occurring in specific locations. It outlines that individuals who engage in theft, whether it’s a general theft or an aggravated one, within or in proximity to places of religious worship, public transport centers, or post offices are subject to legal consequences. These consequences include a minimum of one year of imprisonment and/or substantial fines.

Moreover, this section incorporates even more stringent penalties for those who falsely represent themselves as public servants during the theft, typically for financial or material gain. 

In such cases, offenders may face more severe consequences, including a minimum of three years in prison. This legal provision emphasizes the importance of safeguarding these specific locations and protecting the public from theft-related offenses, ensuring that such crimes do not compromise the sanctity and security of religious sites, transport hubs, and essential services.

Section 395

Section 395 of the UAE’s Federal Penal Code serves as a safeguard against customers who leave a restaurant or hotel without settling their bills. This legal provision, while straightforward, carries significant consequences for those who attempt to evade payment.

The law imposes a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or a Dh 5,000 fine for such actions. This serves a vital purpose in protecting businesses, particularly smaller establishments, from financial losses caused by customers who fail to honor their financial commitments. The impact of unpaid bills can be substantial, affecting profits and the livelihood of these enterprises.

Section 395 functions as a strong deterrent, discouraging potential debtors from leaving without clearing their dues. The prospect of a six-month jail term is a compelling incentive for individuals to fulfill their financial obligations rather than attempting to elude them. 

Furthermore, the Dh 5,000 fine can escalate rapidly for repeat offenders, potentially resulting in severe financial consequences if they disregard the law. This legal provision reinforces the importance of honoring financial responsibilities and upholding the integrity of businesses in the UAE.

Section 399

Section 399 of the Canadian Criminal Code is focused on the issue of signing or obtaining a signature under duress or coercion. It explicitly states that if an individual signs a deed, obtains a signature on a deed, or assists in either of these actions under duress or coercion, they can be charged with a criminal offense and may face imprisonment for up to two years. In essence, this law ensures that if someone is compelled to sign a document against their will, legal consequences and criminal proceedings may follow.

Section 405

Section 405 of the United Arab Emirates’ penal code addresses the misappropriation of lost items, particularly when someone knowingly and intentionally seeks to take ownership of such items. In such cases, this law mandates penalties that include a maximum imprisonment of two years or a fine not exceeding Dh 20,000.

This legal provision comes into play when an individual acquires an item by chance or due to unavoidable circumstances, like stumbling upon something while shopping, without seeking consent from the original owner. The section’s primary purpose is to differentiate between innocent actions, such as lending, borrowing, or gifting, and those where someone deliberately aims to claim ownership of an item that doesn’t rightfully belong to them.

Section 405 ensures that individuals who knowingly and intentionally try to obtain someone else’s property without their consent or agreement will be held accountable under UAE law. It distinguishes between inadvertent actions and actions driven by an actual intent to possess property without the owner’s approval, thus maintaining a sense of justice and responsibility.

What Are the Different Types of Theft Crimes in Dubai?

In Dubai, like in many other places, theft crimes encompass a range of illegal activities related to unlawfully taking another person’s property. The types of theft crimes in Dubai include

Petty Theft

Petty theft involves stealing low-value items, such as merchandise or personal belongings, without the use of force or violence. Common examples include shoplifting, pocket-picking, and taking small items without permission. Penalties for petty theft are less severe than for grand theft.

Grand Theft

Grand theft typically involves more significant items or larger monetary values. In Dubai, the legal system often sets specific monetary thresholds to differentiate grand theft from petty theft. The penalties for grand theft are more substantial and may involve longer jail sentences and larger fines.


Burglary is a serious theft crime that involves breaking into a property with the intent to commit theft. Whether it’s a residential, commercial, or industrial building, burglary is treated as a severe offense in Dubai and can lead to substantial penalties, especially if it involves theft of valuable items.


Robbery goes beyond simple theft; it involves the use of force, intimidation, or threats during the commission of the crime. This form of theft is considered highly dangerous and is met with severe legal consequences.


Embezzlement occurs when individuals misappropriate funds or property entrusted to them, often within an employment or fiduciary context. Those found guilty of embezzlement may face criminal charges and substantial penalties, including imprisonment and fines.


Fraud encompasses various deceptive practices, including credit card fraud, check fraud, and online scams. Perpetrators of fraud can be charged with theft crimes, and the penalties depend on the severity and scale of the fraudulent activity.

Identity Theft

Stealing someone’s personal information, such as their Social Security number or bank account details, to commit financial fraud or other criminal activities constitutes identity theft. The legal system treats this as a serious theft crime.

Auto Theft

Car theft, or auto theft, involves stealing vehicles without the owner’s consent. It can have severe legal consequences, as it not only constitutes theft but also poses a risk to public safety.


Pickpocketing is a form of theft where individuals steal items from others’ pockets, bags, or belongings without their knowledge. This type of theft is prevalent in crowded areas and can lead to criminal charges if caught.


Shoplifting is the act of stealing items from retail stores without paying for them. It is a common form of theft and can result in legal consequences, including fines and jail time.

A study conducted by the Dubai Police Department in 2022 revealed that shoplifting stands as the most prevalent crime in the city, making up 20% of all reported offenses.

Theft in Specific Locations

Some theft crimes are dealt with under specific legal provisions. For example, theft in religious places, public transportation hubs, or post offices may have unique penalties outlined in the law.

Theft by Deception

Committing theft through deception, false identities, or scams is another category of theft crime. These cases may result in legal action if discovered.

Does Dubai cut hands off for stealing?

No, the practice of cutting off hands as a punishment for theft does not occur in Dubai or the wider United Arab Emirates. This misconception has been perpetuated by popular culture and does not align with the legal system in the UAE.

In Dubai, theft is indeed considered a serious offense, and the legal framework for addressing theft is well-defined. The punishment for theft varies based on the severity of the crime and the value of the stolen property. For simple theft, individuals can expect imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine. Aggravated theft may result in imprisonment for up to seven years and/or a fine. Repeat offenders may face harsher penalties, including deportation.

The UAE government places a strong emphasis on combating theft, and the law enforcement system is effective at apprehending and prosecuting thieves. Anyone caught stealing in Dubai can anticipate significant legal consequences. However, it’s crucial to underline that amputation is not part of the punitive measures for theft in the UAE.

It’s important to recognize that the UAE is a diverse and multicultural country, with laws and customs rooted in Islamic principles. While Islamic law, or Sharia law, does indeed prescribe amputation as a punishment for theft, this punishment is not enforced in the UAE. The legal system in Dubai ensures that theft is dealt with according to established legal provisions and international human rights standards.

What Is the Crime Rate in Dubai?

What Is the Crime Rate in Dubai

According to the Numbeo Crime Index, Dubai maintains a remarkably low crime rate, scoring just 12.35, which is considered very low. This signifies that the likelihood of falling victim to crime in Dubai is notably low.

In the Global Peace Index of 2023, the United Arab Emirates ranks as the world’s second-safest country, following only Qatar. This reflects the nation’s commitment to ensuring safety and security for its residents and visitors.

The majority of crimes in Dubai are classified as petty offenses, including theft and pickpocketing. Violent crimes are rare but not non-existent. While there have been a few high-profile incidents in recent years, such as robberies and murders, it’s important to note that these are isolated occurrences.

Dubai’s law enforcement, particularly the Dubai Police Department, is highly efficient in combating crime. The city boasts a significant police presence, often equipped with state-of-the-art technology to maintain public safety. 

Dubai is equipped with approximately 35,000 CCTV cameras, one of the highest per capita ratios globally. These cameras are instrumental in helping authorities deter and uncover theft incidents, simplifying the process of identifying culprits and ensuring their legal accountability.

Moreover, the Dubai Police Department actively collaborates with the public, emphasizing crime prevention awareness and encouraging people to report criminal activities.

In summary, Dubai is considered a safe city with a notably low crime rate. Nevertheless, it is always wise to remain vigilant of your surroundings and take necessary precautions to safeguard yourself from potential criminal activities.


Is theft common in Dubai?

Theft is relatively uncommon in Dubai compared to many other cities worldwide. The city has a low crime rate, and law enforcement is vigilant in addressing and preventing theft.

What is the biggest crime in the UAE?

Shoplifting is one of the most common crimes in the UAE, particularly in Dubai. It accounts for a significant portion of reported offenses.

Is Dubai strict on crime?

Yes, Dubai is known for its strict legal system and stringent law enforcement. The city takes criminal activities seriously and enforces strict penalties for those who violate the law.

Does Dubai check criminal records?

Dubai and the UAE, in general, may conduct criminal record checks for various purposes, including employment and visa processing. Individuals applying for certain jobs or visas may undergo background checks.

Does Dubai check your phone?

Dubai and the UAE have laws and regulations governing the use of technology and the internet. Authorities may have the legal right to monitor digital communications under specific circumstances, such as in the interest of national security.

Can I clear my criminal record in UAE?

In the UAE, it can be challenging to have a criminal record expunged or cleared. The legal process for such matters can be complex, and it is advisable to seek legal counsel if you wish to explore this option.

What is the highest punishment in Dubai?

The highest punishment for criminal offenses in Dubai can vary based on the nature and severity of the crime. For some severe crimes, it may involve lengthy imprisonment, substantial fines, and, in extreme cases, deportation. Dubai does not practice amputation or other extreme physical punishments.

Final words

On the whole, the legal system in Dubai takes theft very seriously. While the myth of amputation for theft is not accurate, the city enforces stringent laws to deter and penalize thieves. Punishments vary based on the severity of the crime, and they can include imprisonment and fines. The focus is on maintaining a safe and secure environment for residents and visitors alike.

It’s essential to understand that Dubai is a multicultural and diverse city, where the legal system aligns with international standards. This means that while theft does occur, the city remains a generally safe place to live and visit. Being aware of local laws and respecting them is crucial to ensuring a trouble-free experience in Dubai.