What The New Law Says on Drugs Cases in UAE?

The Dubai Misdemeanor Court recently canceled its deportation order against an Indian expatriate in light of new legislation amendments. The 38-year old man had been arrested, charged, and convicted for marijuana possession and consumption.

According to Federal Law No. 14 of 1994 on Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances, the offense of drug possession attracted fines and mandatory deportation among expats. However, the new Federal Decree No. 30 of 2021 released in September last year has amended the pioneering legislation, extending judges’ discretion in first-time drug offender cases.

An Overview of the Shift in Jurisprudence and Practice

The penalty policies around first-time drug offenders are gradually shifting from criminal punishment to professional rehabilitation. Before the amendment, being involved in such cases would lead you to search for the best criminal lawyers in Dubai but the new amendment legislation has also eased fines, jail time, and deportation.

Stipulations under the Federal Decree No. 30 of 2021 require that penalties be reduced from a two-year minimum imprisonment sentence to three months for first-time drug offenders. Convicts are further considered for rehabilitation at a special detention facility separate from other felons.

The amended anti-narcotic law required foreigners found guilty of drug crimes to be deported after imprisonment. Fortunately, the new legislation leaves judges with the discretion to decide whether the convict can continue their stay in the United Arabs Emirates.

Case in Point |Pioneering Precedent

On 30th November 2020, a 38-year-old Indian gentleman was arrested for smoking and being in possession of hashish. The police found 28 grams of the drug following a search. Lab tests confirmed that the man was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the arrest.

On 3rd March 2021, the Criminal Court of Instance sanctioned a deportation order and fined the man Dh5,000.

Upon enactment of the Federal Law No. 30 of 2021, the man’s attorney filed a plea requesting a reconsideration of the verdict in light of Article 75 of the amended anti-narcotics law.

In his plea, the lawyer cited Article 14 of the UAE’s Penal Code, which required that where a new piece of legislation eases a penalty, it becomes permissible for the court that delivered the final judgment to reconsider its decision.

“My client has been residing in the United Arabs Emirates with his family, who owned a business that he runs for over three decades. Deporting him will tear the family apart. He is not a criminal and has no criminal record. There is no reason to believe that he will break the law again,” read the plea.

Based on this plea, the court revised its initial verdict on February 2022, canceling the deportation order. The court was of the opinion that Federal Law No. 30 of 2021 was the most appropriate for the accused’s circumstances.

Rehabilitation of Drug Offenders

Article 7 of the new law stipulates that relevant authorities establish dedicated rehab facilities for convicted drug offenders. According to lawmakers, drug users are not criminals but patients that require professional help.

Statutory rehab facilities offer rehabilitation programs, vocational training, sports, and holistic healing. In addition, patients also get to benefit from occupational, family, and social integration initiatives.

The amendments are significant as they align the legislative philosophy with how we consider justice, health, family, and a sense of security. It indicates the need for a conscious coordinated approach that marries criminal justice to public health.

Stringent Penalties on Series Offenders

Article 41 of Federal Law No. 30 of 2021 holds that first-time drug offenders will face three-month imprisonment or a fine ranging between Dh20,000 and Dh100,000. Repeating the offense within three years after the first offense will attract a minimum of six-month imprisonment or a fine between Dh30,000 and Dh100,000.

On the other hand, third-time offenders stand to face a minimum of two years imprisonment and a mandatory fine of Dh100,000.

The UAE as the Jurisdiction of Tolerance

The decision to withdraw the deportation order has received praise among legal practitioners. Senior Judge Ahmed Saif, who sits at the Dubai Civil Court, stated that the United Arabs Emirates is a land of tolerance, and the laws are taking shape in the same direction.

The three-month imprisonment is enough to get rid of the drug prior to rehabilitation. The new legislation allows courts to replace imprisonment with rehabilitation.

Lawyers, doctors, and psychologists have always shown concern that drug addicts need to be treated as patients who need help and not as criminals who need to serve life behind bars. Legislators have finally heeded and responded with the new amendments, which have brought hope to many drug offenders convicted under the old laws.

In summary, people deserve a second chance, and Dubai lawmakers and courts are cognizant of this fact.

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Steve has been living in Saudi Arabia since 2013 and writing about Saudi rules, regulations, guides, and procedures since then.