Sentencing fines and penalties for offences
When deciding a sentence, the magistrate or judge considers a number of factors such as:
- the seriousness of the crime
- the effect on the victim
- the offender’s circumstances
- the offender’s criminal history
- whether the offender has cooperated with police.
While there is a maximum penalty set for each crime normally, with a greater penalty can be imposed if the offence takes place with aggravation—something which increases the seriousness of the crime or the harm to the victim—such as when the crime is committed by more than 1 person or when a weapon is carried.
Penalty units and fines
Fines for some crimes in Queensland are based on a system of penalty units. A penalty unit (PU) is a set amount of money used to work out each fine. The fine is calculated by multiplying the value of 1 penalty unit by the number of penalty units set for that crime. The number of penalty units will normally have an equivalent jail sentence for people unable or unwilling to pay the fine or where the judge or magistrate decides jail a prison term is a more appropriate form of punishment.
The penalty unit value in Queensland is $121.90 (current from 1 July 2016).
For example, the penalty for driving without due care and attention—a hooning offence—is a maximum of 40 penalty units or 6 months imprisonment; therefore the maximum fine for the offence is now $4876.
In some cases the government may introduce special legislation to combat a particular type of crime, and this may carry a penalty in addition to the normal penalty legislated for the offence.
For example, hooning is an area where special legislation has been passed to combat anti-social behaviour conducted in a motor vehicle. Therefore if you are convicted of driving without due care and attention—a hooning offence—as well as the maximum of 40 penalty units or 6 months imprisonment, the vehicle you were driving can be impounded or immobilised for 90 days. If you are convicted of a repeat offence, the vehicle can be impounded and may be confiscated at the end of any legal proceedings against you.