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Expert explains legal procedure for search and arrest in drug cases

A Staff Reporter
Filed on March 25, 2003

DUBAI - Proper procedures for search and arrest of suspects in drug offences, in the light of rulings of the Dubai Cassation Court, was the theme of a lecture delivered yesterday evening at the Dubai Police Academy by Dubai Cassation Court's Judge, Professor Mohammed Nabil Riyadh. The lecture was organised under the patronage of Major General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, the chief of Dubai Police.

"The arrest and search of a suspect in a drug offence has to be carried out with the permission of public prosecution. However, an officer can legally arrest and search suspects without such a permission in certain situations as defined by Article 45 of the UAE Federal Penal Code," Prof. Riyadh said.

A suspect can be arrested and searched if he was caught in the act of committing the crime by the arresting officer, who himself detected the crime and did not come to know about it through a third party, whether by the powers of sight, hearing or smell.

Otherwise, a suspect can be arrested and searched if sufficient evidence about a suspect having committed a drug offence is perceived by the arresting officer at the time of the arrest.

"It is insufficient for the arresting officer to just say that the suspect was found in an unusual state; the arresting officer has to mention in detail what he perceived as evidence that the suspect might have taken and was under the influence of a narcotic substance."

He said that every procedure taken by the arresting officer to apprehend a suspect, even disguising himself as a drug dealer or addict, was allowed provided the arresting officer did not coerce or force a suspect to commit a drug offence in order to apprehend him in the act.

A suspect's home can be searched without permission of the public prosecution if after his arrest on drugs charges there is strong indication that he has concealed something connected to the crime at his residence, or if the suspect has been under surveillance or if the suspect gives a clear consent for a search.

"In case a suspect is arrested after he has been followed by police to another premises, the premises and anyone else in that premises must not be searched unless persons there were caught in the act of committing a crime by the arresting officer," Prof. Riyadh said.

He said that customs authorities had the sole right to carry out administrative searches, which included search of any passenger using any of the ports of entry in the country. Should any narcotic drugs be found after such a search, it will be accepted by the court.

Any drugs found from suspects during preventive searches, which include searching prison inmates or patients in hospital, can be legally admitted as evidence in a drug case against a suspect.

"A private car takes the identity of its owner, that is if the law allows arrest and search of a suspect that suspect's private car can also be searched," Prof. Riyadh said.

He stressed that a public place takes on the characteristics of a private place in the law in the time of day that such a public place is closed to members of the public, in such times a public place is seen by the law as possessing the same sanctity as a private home, a doctor's clinic or a private office.

A search order is issued by public prosecution based on the arresting officer's report, which has to be specific in time and place and name of person to be searched. A search order issued by public prosecution is good only for one search and must not be used to carry out more than one search.

He said a suspect must be questioned in his own language unless he proves competence in the Arabic language.

An arresting officer does not have the right to go into detailed questioning of a suspect. Any drugs found must be weighed and recorded carefully.


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