Comparison between Criminal Law in the United States and United Arab Emirates

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The significance of regulations within any modern society is paramount. Nonetheless, different countries have different standards of defining law from crimes and punishment. In general terms, the law is understood as the system of regulations that govern a society based on certain degrees as a measure to regulate the behavioral aspects of the individuals within the community. The United States of America and the United Arab Emirates possess a similar understanding of the importance of criminal law but, have a differential outlook. In this essay, an elaborate comparison between the two countries based on crime and punishment of crimes shall be elucidated. Two differences shall be considered, the legality principle on criminal law on the definition of crime and execution of offense from harm (Ashworth & Horder, 2013, p.28).

Legality Principle: Defining Crime

In the United Arab Emirates, the law is defined under different aspects including Sharia Law, constitutional law, statutory laws, and administrative laws. It is clear that crime is not defined as exclusively as it is in other regions. As such, according to the Penal Code under the United Arab Emirates constitution, a crime is defined as sanctioned action conferring to the regulation in force at the period of its commission (Article 12) (El-Dakkak, 2014, p.10). This means that with the different sources of criminal law executable by the judiciary system a lot of retroactivity is absorbed in the sovereign state. About Article 13, “if a law more auspicious to the suspect is ratified after the infiltration of a crime, and before rendering judgment, it shall wholly be applied.”  Interpreting this indicates that Sharia law or administrative law can be applied from the type of crime committed (El-Dakkak, 2014, p.10). The judicial system is not required to implement any other law apart from the criminally liable code which is the basis of the offense under review.

Compared to America, crime is defined under one universally acceptable demeanor from which the American constitution is used as a first resort to determining offense. The Fourth, Sixth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendment provides for the definition of the crime. Compounding the Amendments, there is one denominator in describing what the offense is. “A crime is a malfeasance or an act committed, absent in desecration of a public law either forbidding or commanding it.” (Michigan Law Review, 2018, p. 60). Crime is unilaterally defined under Federal, State and County level laws in which each State is required by law to adhere to the definition. In the United States, application of the Constitutional Law is considered first and last resort unless provisions on International Criminal Law are applicable.

Criminal Law Process: Harm Principle

There is a phenomenal difference between execution of the law in the United States of America and United Arab Emirates. Any criminal entity or person is liable for conviction as mandated in the United Arab Emirates constitutional law. The provisions on human action to cause harm are based on aiding and abiding criminal activities within the boundaries of the country. This means that a person convicted of committing the crime against the State such as assisting or supporting a prisoner of war or a detained soldier is liable for a life sentence (Article 153) (El-Dakkak, 2014, p.10).

Notwithstanding, since each law has power over the other, the United Arab Emirates’ criminal law regards that offenses can be punished conferring to the law in power at the time it was committed (Article 5) (El-Dakkak, 2014, p.10). It means that penalty can only be inflicted if the acts committed are after the promulgation of the law prescribed to them. By human conduct, UAE laws do not define any official, or ordinary citizen are superior to the law. Anyone is convictable on provisions of the law.

On the other hand, in the United States of America, every criminal is considered innocent until proven guilty. A more democratic system under the criminal law where the American Constitution, the Sixth Amendment provides that every criminal prosecution requires a full and speedy trial for each criminal. Unlike the UAE, where the criminal does not stand a chance to be pardoned under a jury, the USA provides for a peer-jury prosecution. This means that under the American constitution, the crime committed is provided with platforms to understand the nature and cause of the accusation and witnesses are called upon. One universal law is used the American constitution.

Compared to the UAE, it is clear that the harm principle on criminal law is provided precedence regardless of the intent or human conduct. According to Article 15, the new law can be applied to any incessant or consecutive crimes committed before its imminent into effect (El-Dakkak, 2014, p.10). This means that regardless of whether already existing laws factored in during a trial, new rules can be used in prosecuting a person based on the harm conducted. Irrespective of change, judicial precedence does not have any reliance on the UAE as does in the USA.


The reliance on retroactivity and numerous laws in the UAE prove to be complicated in handling criminal law in the country. Compared to the USA, which is termed to have a more complicated legal system, the criminal law is simple and straight-forward.


Ashworth, A., & Horder, J. (2013). Principles of criminal law. Oxford University Press. 28.

Michigan Law Review. 2018. What Is a "Crime"within the Meaning of the Constitution? (1904). Michigan Law Review, 3(1), 59-61. doi:10.2307/1273257

El-Dakkak, M. Shokry. 2014. Criminal Law: Over view on the United Arab Emirates Penal Law. Volume 1. ISBN978-9948-20-868-6. The Judicial Department. 1-204.

December 12, 2023

Crime Law

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Criminal Law

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