United Arab Emirates: Criminal Law And Wrong/False Complaint

Last Updated: 1 August 2019
Article by STA Law Firm
Most Popular Article in United Arab Emirates, August 2019



A simple Google search of the name "Jussie Smollett" will lead to a finding of what the consequences of filing a wrong police complaint can be. Fortunately for Mr Smollet, the felony charges for fabricating the existence of a crime were later dropped. One wonders whether a complainant who files a wrong police complaint will face the same consequences that Mr Smollet was to face in the United States are as dire as anywhere else in the world. Examining the effects of filing a wrong police complaint in the United Arab Emirates, the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand will provide the answer.


Lawmakers and law enforcement authorities, encourage citizens to cooperate with them in maintaining law and order. Citizens are expected to report any violation and to act responsibly regarding crimes and violations they may be aware of and inform the authorities. A false report confuses relevant authorities, disperses their efforts and wastes state resources.

There are several reasons that one may decide to file a wrong complaint to the police. A person may be tempted to file a false complaint to defraud their insurance company. One may also want to frame someone else for a crime they committed before it is discovered that they are the real culprit. One can file a wrong complaint to gain financially, should they be able to obtain damages in a court of law.  Regardless of the countless reasons one may wish to fabricate a crime, the consequence of doing so are grossly unpleasant. 

olice Rights and Freedoms Protection. The complaints section is part of the Department of Human Rights. In the United Arab Emirates,  Out of 687 complaints received between January and September 2014, only 98 were valid. Out of 506 complaints received January to September 2013, only 92 were correct.  It is crucial to examine the consequences of filing a wrong police report.

Filing a wrong police complaint in the United Arab Emirates

False accusations are differentiated from unsubstantiated and unfounded allegations. Baseless accusations are those where there is inadequate supporting evidence to determine whether an accusation is true or false. A false report is defined as deliberately furnishing a relevant authority with incorrect information to harm someone.

False allegations are those that fall into of three categories. The first kind is allegations that are wrong because the events referred to by the complainant, did not occur. The second category is where the complainant describes events that did happen, but the complainant has mistaken the identity of the wrongdoer. Simply put, this refers to a situation whereby one describes a crime that was not committed by the accused, and the accused is innocent. The third category is one where there is a misconception on the part of the complainant, as to what events did occur and which did not.

Article 266 of the United Arab Emirates Penal Code states a person who submits false information in respect of a crime will be sentenced to detention if the person did so knowingly. Article 275 of the UAE Penal Code stated that any person would be imprisoned for a term less than six months and or a fine not exceed three thousand dirhams if he or she reports a crime which he knows does not exist or a crime which he or she knows was never perpetrated.  Article 276 states that a person shall be sentenced to detention or be liable to pay a fine if one falsely and in bad faith makes a false report. The crime reported must be one that warrants a criminal or disciplinary action. According to this section whoever fabricates false material that someone has perpetrated a crime which triggers legal action against that person, that person shall be imprisoned or fined. In case the false accusation results in inflicting a felony penalty, the slanderer shall be punished with the same sentence with which the accused person would have been charged.

A person who files a wrong complaint with police may also be liable for slander and defamation. The person who was falsely accused as a result of the false police report can file a separate criminal complaint against the complainant who filed a false accusation.

Article 63 of the Penal Code states that a law enforcement officer who investigates a false accusation cannot be charged with a crime. This provision protects police officers who have investigated a fake crime from being prosecuted or being sued. The UAE penal code allows for a wrongly accused person to file a separate criminal complaint against whoever has submitted a false accusation against him.

The courts have outlined that penal judgements should be based on certainty rather than on suspicion and speculation. The courts will give a punishment that is comparable to the extent of the harm suffered by the wronged person.

Filing a wrong police report in the United States.

In the United States, a complainant who files a wrong complaint with the police will be charged with the crime of "false report to a peace officer". The legislation on submitting an incorrect police report changes from state to state. In the California Penal Code, article 148.5 states that it is a criminal offence to misreport a crime. The charge also differs proportionally with the extent of the deception. Filing a false report can either be a misdemeanour or a felony. A misdemeanour is a non-indictable offence whereas a felony is a serious crime. Deciding to charge a complainant with a felony or a misdemeanour is dependent on whether the case causes inconvenience to the police or other authorities. Incidents that cause less of a nuisance to police and other authorities will be classified as misdemeanours, while those that cause more inconvenience, confusion and harm will be classified as felony charges.

The definition of filing a false report varies from state to state. It can be generalised, however, that filing a wrong complaint entails lying to the police. Making positive statements that are false is one way that persons may file a wrong complaint to the police. A false report in the United States could also be the result of making material omissions which paint a false picture to the police. One may be liable for a false report charge if they neglect to mention specific details when filing the complaint with the police. The account of the false incident or incorrect details of the event can be given to a police officer, grand jury, prosecutor or 911 operator.

According to the California Penal Code, filing a wrong police report includes making a false report of a crime where no crime occurred. Section 148.5 of the Penal Code also includes using a fictitious name or identity when filing the police report as stated in Penal Code Section 529 PC. Furnishing false information or details about the incident is also a crime. Making a false report of theft or damage also constitutes false reporting. Finally, knowingly lying about the actual value of items stolen or damaged is also a crime.  

The United States laws acknowledge that a person's memory may be unreliable or that a person may have been supplied with inaccurate or false information by another before filing the police report. There are two elements to the crime: firstly, that the defendant filed a report with a peace officer, secondly that the defendant knew or had reason to believe that the statement was false.

Regardless of whether the false report results in a misdemeanour or a felony, imprisonment is a viable form of punishment. For a misdemeanour, the complainant may face one or two years in county jail. For a felony, one may face probation, but a much higher prison sentence from 2 to 10 years is possible. Defendants who file a false police report may also be ordered to reimburse funds to the community. This order is used because the criminal justice system would have wasted its limited resources investigating a crime that does not exist, or the wrong accused altogether. In limited cases, one may also be charged with obstruction of justice, if the crime so reported led the police on a wild goose chase.

One may also incur civil liability for a false police report. A defendant may also be financially liable for defamation. Another claim that may be founded on this cause of action is the intentional infliction of emotional distress. These can be sustained because filing a wrong police report can lead to the defamed party losing their job.

In the United States, there are defences available to a complainant who wishes to escape a criminal charge of false reporting. One can adduce evidence to show that they did not make a false report. A complainant can also show a court of law that at the time of making the report, they were under the misapprehension or under the impression that it was true. A complainant can also show that a classic case of mistaken identity has occurred.  

The rationale behind having such dire consequences for filing a wrong police report is because trust in the victim or a witness is the necessary foundation of the criminal justice system. False police reports usually lead to the arrest of the person that the report was filed against.

Consequences of filing a wrong complaint with the police in Canada

The definition of a wrong complaint or a false report in Canada is identical to that of the United States. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, a complainant filing a wrong police complaint would be charged with committing public mischief. The crime of committing public mischief is codified under section 140 of the Criminal Code. Section 140(1) states that anyone who commits the crime of public mischief, if they, with intent to mislead, cause a peace officer to initiate or continue an investigation in one of four ways. The first way is by making a false statement that accuses another person of having committed an offence as enumerated by in section 140 (1) (a). The second way, outlined in section 140 (1) (b) is by doing something that causes another innocent person to be suspected of having committed an offence. One can do this by diverting suspicion away from him or herself. The third way one commits public mischief is by reporting that an offence has been committed. The fourth way can ensure that they are charged with the crime of committing public mischief is by reporting a death where one has not occurred or made the fake death known in any other way where the complainant that such person has not died. For our purposes, section 140 (1) (c) is pertinent as it relates to false reporting.

Under the Criminal Code, there are other competent crimes that one could be charged with if said person files a false police report with the police. One could get charged with perjury under section 131 of the Code. A conviction on a charge of perjury could lead to imprisonment for a maximum of fourteen years.  A charge of this crime is possible if the complainant intended to mislead and knowingly gave an inaccurate statement under oath or affirmation. A conviction on a charge of fabricating evidence can also attract a prison sentence of up fourteen years. A complainant may also be charged with a crime under section 137 of the Code. This crime is one of fabricating evidence. A false police report constitutes evidence under this section. Section 139(2) of the Code refers to a person who intentionally tries to obstruct justice.

This charge is a possible charge against a complainant who has given false information to the police.

Undoubtedly, the lawmakers intended to discourage and punish false reporting. The law is also a deterrent which stops people from falsely accusing others.

Consequences of filing a false report to the police in the United Kingdom

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland section 5(2) of the Criminal Law Act 1967 applies. This section states that where one knowingly makes a false report to a person and cause any wasteful use of police resources, that person is charged with an offence. Filing a false report is one that purports that a criminal offence has been committed. The report may be made either orally, or in writing. It also includes creating an apprehension that there is a threat to the safety of any persons or property. Making a false police report may also be indicating that one has information that is material to a future or ongoing police investigation. In Scotland, the High Court of Justiciary held in Kerr v Hill that giving false information to the police constitutes a crime under the common law. 

If one is court makes a false report in the United Kingdom, they may also be charged with perverting the course of justice. The maximum penalty for this is life imprisonment. A complainant will be accused of this more serious crime if it is proven that the false report was motivated by malice. If one is given multiple opportunities to retract their false story, but they chose to continue telling the fake account, then they will be charged with perverting the ends of justice. If a complainant files a wrong police complaint that leads to the conviction and imprisonment of an innocent person, they will be charged with perverting the course of justice. If the falsely accused person suffers significant harm to their reputation, then the crime of perverting the ends of justice is also a competent charge. If the complainant has previously been convicted of the crime of making false reports or wasting police time, then the complainant is likely to face the crime of perverting the course of justice.

filing a wrong police report in New Zealand

In New Zealand, the consequences of filing a false police report are that one can be charged under section 24 of the Summary Offenses Act of 1981. The Summary Offences Act of 1981 states that every person who makes a false allegation or false report to police is liable to imprisoned for a term not exceeding three months. An alternative punishment is a fine not exceeding $2000. A complainant is one who, despite the facts, and without a belief in the truth of the statement, makes or causes a report to be made to any Police or police employee. The account may be in writing or verbal, and it must allege that an offence has been committed. The report may also be made to cause wasteful deployment of police resources and personnel. An account of a crime can also be created to divert police personnel or resources. The individual reporting the crime may also be reckless as to the result of diverting police personnel and resources. The report must give rise to a severe apprehension that one's safety or the safety of any person or property is threatened while the maker of the statement is aware that no such threat exists.  The complainant is also liable if he behaves in a manner that is likely to cause another to perceive a threat, knowing that such perception is baseless.  These legislative provisions are very similar to the legal framework in the United Kingdom

Comparing the United Arab Emirates, the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom

In the United Arab Emirates, there is a narrow definition of what a false police report is. Any kind of false statement to the police can lead to a conviction unless one can prove that the report was made in good faith. Contrastingly, in the United States, the laws are more descriptive of what a false report entails.

Furthermore, the laws acknowledge that memory may be unreliable, and some complainants may not mean to make a false report to the police. Such a complainant is merely charged with a misdemeanour which does not attract any kind of punishment. The legal framework of the United Arab Emirates is inflexible because it does not differentiate between false reports where the complainant simply failed to remember details correctly and ones where the complainant deliberately fabricated a crime. Furthermore, if the accused person would have been charged with a felony, then the complainant will also be charged with a felony regardless of the intentions of the complainant. This punishment may be considered unduly harsh considering that the wrong police complainant may be due to faulty memory. 

The crime of filing a wrong complaint with the police is not uniquely named in the United Arab Emirates or in the United States where it is merely called the crime of submitting a "false report to a peace officer". In Canada, the crime under the umbrella of the crime of committing public mischief, but one may also be charged with perjury and fabricating evidence. In the United Kingdom, the crime is of wasting police time and perverting the ends of justice. Perverting the ends of justice can result in life imprisonment, which makes felony charge in the United Arab Emirates or the United States seem fair in comparison.

It is vital that in all the jurisdictions stated there is a possibility of claiming damages for defamation or slander. Thus complainants who have been wrongly accused can claim for emotional distress, loss of opportunity and financial loss they have suffered because of the wrong complainant.


The consequences of filing a wrong police complaint can be dire anywhere in the world. Citizens should take their duty to report crimes accurately and in good faith seriously to avoid criminal and civil liability. With sentences ranging from 3 months and life imprisonment depending on where you are in the world, citizens must be cautious not to file a wrong complaint.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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