Types of sentences

This page explains what happens when adults are sentenced for a crime in Queensland. Children are sentenced differently.

Read more about young offenders and the justice system.

When and where sentencing occurs

If you plead or are found guilty, the magistrate or judge will either sentence you at the end of the hearing or trial, or set a date for a sentence hearing. Generally, you must attend the sentencing hearing.

Courts can issue non-custodial sentences, custodial sentences, and special orders.

Non-custodial sentences

Non-custodial sentences are penalties that don’t include time in prison.

Absolute release —Release without a recorded conviction or any further penalty

Good behaviour bonds —A promise of good behaviour for a set period, which may include a surety (guarantee or amount of money) and other conditions.

Restitution or compensation order — An order for you to pay for property you’ve taken or damaged, or compensate someone for an injury. This order can be added to another sentencing order.

Non-contact or banning order —A ban on you contacting the victim of the offence or another person, or going to particular places for a set time. This order can be added to another sentencing order.

Fine —An order to pay a fine as punishment for the offence. The amount depends on the type of offence and the court hearing the case. Often you can pay the fine by instalments. If you can’t pay the fine, you can apply to change it to unpaid community service. A court can order a fine instead of, or as well as another sentence. Read more about sentencing fines and penalties for offences.

Community service order —An order for you to do unpaid community service for 40–240 hours (usually in 1 year), and comply with reporting and other conditions.

Probation —An order allowing you to remain in the community and report regularly to a probation officer. Read more about probation.

Custodial sentencing orders

A custodial sentence involves going to prison. The court can also set a parole eligibility or release date, depending on the offence.

Imprisonment —Time in prison with a conviction recorded. The maximum prison term depends on the offence.

Intensive correction order —A prison sentence of 1 year or less served in the community under intensive supervision. You would report to a supervisor regularly, attend rehabilitation programs and counselling, and perform community service.

Suspended sentence of imprisonment —If you are sentenced to up to 5 years in prison and have a conviction recorded, the court may suspend all, or part, of your sentence for a set period.

If you commit another offence punishable by jail while you are on a suspended sentence, you must serve the original suspended prison period plus the sentence for the new offence.

Indefinite prison sentence —A sentence for an indefinite period, usually for serious, violent offences and sexual offences. This court may impose this sentence if it believes you are a danger to the community because of your past history, character, age, health or mental condition; the offence’s severity; and any other circumstances. If the court finds that you are no longer a serious danger, it can remove the indefinite sentence and impose a finite sentence.

Special court orders

A drug court can also order intensive drug rehabilitation instead of time in prison.

To be eligible, you must plead guilty and have no outstanding charges for sexual offences or offences involving physical violence.

This order involves a suspended prison sentence of up to 4 years, order conditions and a rehabilitation program.

When the rehabilitation program ends, the magistrate must reconsider the initial sentence, discontinue the current order and impose a final sentence.

Read more about drug courts.

Recording convictions

In sentencing you, the court must decide whether to record a conviction, which would give you a criminal record for the offence. This could affect your ability to work in certain professions, hold public office, or work in or travel to some countries.

If a conviction is not recorded, you will have no criminal history regarding the matter.

For some sentences, such as a recognisance or good behaviour order, the court cannot record a conviction. And it must record a conviction for the most serious options, such as jail and intensive correction orders.

Court considerations

When deciding on a sentence, the court considers many factors including:

  • the seriousness of the crime
  • the effect on the victim
  • the extent to which you are to blame for the offence
  • your personal circumstances and criminal history
  • whether you have cooperated with police
  • whether you have had counselling for any problems that contributed to the offence
  • submissions from the prosecutor and defence lawyers
  • the laws that guide sentences
  • sentences given in similar cases.

The court must always give reasons for the sentence.

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