As Dubai signals move to deal with almost all cheque cases, we look at how the process has worked to date
How a bounced cheque is handled in Abu Dhabi
Under UAE law, bouncing a cheque is a misdemeanour that could be punished by jail or a fine, depending on the nature of the case and the amount.
When a cheque is deemed bounced by a bank - usually meaning there is not enough funds to cover the pledged amount - it is stamped as such by that bank.
The person it was made out to can either attempt to resolve the matter themselves, or take it to public prosecutors.
Legal advisor Yazan Al Rawashdeh explained how the Abu Dhabi authorities handle what happens next:
- The person who was given the cheque receives a warrant from prosecutors to to the police, who give him another warrant to take it back to the bank.
- Then the bank explains to the police why it bounced.
- The police take the statements of the claimant and tracks down the accused – the owner of the cheque book - to take their statements.
“By law, they are required to detain him/her, until he appears in front of a prosecutor," Mr Al Rawashdeh said.
The prosecutor will either grant bail, in exchange for cash or their passport, or keep him or her in jail.
While courtrooms used to be packed with defendants driven in from prison over cases of small, bounced cheques, loans and credit cards, a presidential decree issued in 2014 changed that.
“The decree divided cases of bounced cheque into two categories," Mr Al Rawashdeh said.
"Bounced cheques involving two individuals, and bounced cheques involving a bank, do not get sentenced to jail, they only receive fines,” explained Mr Al Rawashdeh.
"Cases between people and/or companies tended to end in a jail sentence.
"But in general, if the value of the cheque is small, the court issues a fine and not a jail sentence", he said.
“The court ruling usually depends based on the amount of the cheque, and the judge’s evaluation. The law has not specified the amount of fine to be issued.”
“Some fines could reach up to Dh200,000.”
Similarly, jail sentences issued over bounced cheques vary based on the amount of the cheque. The law gave judges flexibility to decide from one month to three years.
“Usually judges issue sentences between one and three months, but if the value is very high - there was a case of a bounced cheque worth Dh 24 million - the judge sentenced the defendant to three years.”
Moreover, since 2014, most defendants have been granted bail, except for those who were involved in more than one case.
“Once the decree was issued, there has been a lot of changes with regards to cases to bounced cheques. There used to be a lot of people in jail over cheque, credit cards and loans.
“Now a lot of that load has been lifted off courts and police.”