10 things that could get you fined, arrested in the UAE

Sneaking a peek at your spouse's phone, feeding stray cats; the misdemeanours listed may surprise you


Mazhar Farooqui

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Published: Mon 29 Aug 2022, 5:35 PM

Last updated: Sat 3 Jun 2023, 8:59 AM

Nobody likes going to jail or getting fined for an offence they didn’t know existed. We have rounded up 10 seemingly harmless crimes that could land you in serious trouble in the UAE. Don’t say you weren’t warned!

1. Calling someone silly or stupid

Calling someone stupid or silly is considered a crime that is punishable by a jail term and a fine.

Laws you violate: Article 373 of the UAE federal penal code.

Penalty: One-year jail term and a fine of Dh10,000.

Who found out the hard way: An Arab man who called his fiancée 'idiot' on WhatsApp. He got 60 days in prison and a fine of Dh20,000.

2. Illegal satellite TV

Tempted to install Dish TV or any other unathorised satellite dish antenna to watch your favourite show? You are flirting with danger. Residents who consume pirated TV services can face criminal action. The advertisement, sale and/or distribution of television service by unlicensed, unauthorised and unlawful television service providers in the UAE is illegal, authorities have repeatedly warned.

Laws you violate: Law No. 7 for 2002, and Federal Trademark Law No. 37 for 1992 and its subsequent amendments

Penalty: Dh2,000 fine and legal action.

Who found out the hard way: An Asian man who was sentenced to one month in prison and fined Dh5,000 by a Dubai Criminal Court last year for illegally selling satellite TV receivers that decode channels. He was also ordered to shut down his shop.

3. Carrying khas khas

Khas khas (white poppy seeds) are commonly used in Indian and Pakistani cuisine, particularly curries and kebabs, to enhance their taste. But if you are planning to bring them to the UAE, banish the thought. Khas Khas, also known as posta, is banned in the country and those found with it could face a long haul in jail.

Law you violate: Federal Law No. 14 of 1995 which criminalises production, import, export, transport, buying, selling, possessing, storing of narcotic and psychotropic substance.

Penalty: 20 years in jail.

Who found out the hard way: Many over the years including an Indian from Mangalore who was arrested after customs inspectors at Dubai International Airport seized 102.5g of poppy seeds from his luggage.

4. Employing illegal domestic help

Domestic help must be sponsored by their recruiters. But if you have the nerve to hire one illegally, then you ought to also have the nerve to consider the dreadful consequences.

Laws you violate: Federal Law No 10 of 2017 on Domestic Workers.

Penalty: A fine no less than Dh50,000 and up to Dh5 million besides a jail term.

Who found out the hard way: An Egyptian man in Sharjah a few years back. He was detained by police and slapped with a fine of Dh 50,000 for employing a housemaid who was not on his sponsorship.

5. Feeding stray cats

Giving food to homeless and hungry cats may appear as a humane act but it’s not. Feeding ferals increases their ability to give birth to even more kittens that are destined to suffer and die premature deaths, say animal welfare groups. Feeding of birds such as crows and pigeons and stray dogs and cats is also prohibited in Dubai, according to Dubai Municipality.

Rule you violate: Dubai Municipality rules

Penalty: Dh500.

Who found out the hard way: We don’t know if anyone has been fined on this count but residents of many communities have received circulars warning them against leaving food for strays.

6. Filming an accident scene

Unless you plan on seeking compensation for injuries or damages, taking pictures or videos of accidents is not a good idea as it’s a serious crime in the UAE. In fact, even gathering around an accident is punishable by law here.

Laws you violate: Article 44 of Law No 34 of 2021 under the UAE Cybercrime Law that came into effect on January 2 this year and Article 197 of the UAE Penal Code under the Ministerial Resolution No 178 for 2017 on Rules and Procedures of Traffic Control

Penalty: Six months in jail or/and a fine between Dh150,000 and Dh500,000 for taking pictures of accident victims. Dh1,000 is the penalty for crowding an accident scene.

Who found out the hard way: Many people who were each fined Dh1,000 recently for gathering around accident sites.

7. Fundraising

No matter how noble your cause, raising funds without permit can have a disastrous fall out. Under the UAE Donations Law, such activities are restricted to specific entities only. The New Fundraising Law of UAE law prohibits individuals from conducting or organising fundraising activities. Only licensed charities, federal and local authorities can collect, receive and make donations.

Laws you violate: Federal Law No. 3 of 2021 concerning the Regulation of Fundraising Activities (the ‘New Fundraising Law of UAE’) and the provisions of Decree No. 9 of 2015 Regulating the Raising of Donations in the Emirate of Dubai (the ‘Dubai Fund Raising Law’)

Penalty: A fine no less than Dh200,000 and a maximum of Dh500,000. Other penalties include imprisonment and confiscation of the funds raised.

Who found out the hard way: A British-Australian dual national for sharing link to a charity for Afghan children.

8. Washing car in public

This will not get you arrested, alright, but it can result in a fine. Washing cars in non-designated areas, whether outside homes, in gated communities or on streets is strictly prohibited.

Rule you violate: Municipality rules.

Penalty: Dh500.

Who found out the hard way: Hundreds over the years.

9. Seeking unlicensed massage service

Massages lower stress and blood pressure. However, going to a masseur who attracts customers through business cards carrying lewd pictures could cause you a lot of agony. According to Dubai Police, you could fall victim to extortionists. If that is not bad enough, you could be fined or jailed.

Law you violate: Article 356 of the UAE Penal Code

Penalty: One-year in jail or fine or both.

Who found out the hard way: Statistics of those penalised for seeking the service of unlicensed massage centres are not available. However, there have been quite a few instances of people being assaulted and robbed by illegal massage centre operators.

Earlier this month, Sharjah Police busted a gang that lured unsuspecting people to unlicensed massage parlours and then robbed them at knifepoint.

10. Checking someone’s phone

Going through someone’s phone (and that includes your partner) could land you in legal hot water. You face a steep fine if you access any information system with a password acquired without permission. Obtaining the password with the intent to commit a crime will be considered an aggravated offence.

Law you violate: Article 9 of the Federal Decree-Law No. 34 of 2021 for Combating Electronic Crimes and Rumours, also referred to as the Cybercrimes Law.

Penalty: Imprisonment and/or a fine between Dh50,000 and Dh100,000 for accessing any information system with a password acquired without permission. If there is criminal intent, you face a minimum of six months in jail and/or a fine between Dh300,000 and Dh500,000.

Who found out the hard way: A suspicious Arab wife in Ras Al Khaimah who had to cough a fine of Dh5,400 last year for snooping on her husband’s cellphone, transferring photos and videos from it to her own device and then sharing them with others.


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