Sentencing adult offenders

Sentences take into account a range of factors in accordance with the law, case law and the principles and purposes of sentencing. The types of penalties available to a court when sentencing an offender are set out in the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992. Providing a range of sentences is important, as the individuals circumstances of each offender, victim and/or offence vary considerably.


Although an offender has been found guilty or has pleaded guilty, the sentencing court may not record a conviction. In this instance an offender does not have a criminal record for the offence.

In other cases, recording a conviction without imposing further penalty can serve as an offender’s penalty. Criminal records may impact a person’s ability to pursue various opportunities in life such as working in some jobs or holding a particular office or licence.

Non-custodial sentencing orders

Non-custodial sentencing options do not include time in prison.

  • Absolute release—release without a conviction being recorded and without any further penalty.
  • Community service orders—an order for an offender to do unpaid community service for 40 to 240 hours, usually within 1 year, and comply with reporting and other conditions. This order can be made along with a probation order whether or not a conviction is recorded.
  • Fine—an order (with or without recording a conviction) to pay an amount of money within a period of time. The fine depends on the type of offence and the court hearing the matter. A fine may be imposed in addition to or instead of another sentence. View more about fines
  • Good behaviour bond—a promise the offender will not break the law for a set period, which may include a surety (guarantee or amount of money) and other conditions.
  • Non-contact or banning order—a ban on the offender 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.
  • Probation—an order between 6 months and 3 years (with or without recording a conviction) where the offender is allowed to remain in the community with government monitoring and supervision. View more about probation
  • Restitution or compensation order—an order (with or without recording a conviction) requiring an offender to pay for property taken or damaged, or compensate for loss or damage to property or for any personal injury suffered by a person. This order can be added to another sentencing order.

Custodial sentencing orders

The court may sentence an offender to time in prison, referred to as a custodial sentencing order.

Under Queensland legislation, however, sentencing an offender to imprisonment should only be imposed as a last resort.

The length of time in prison depends on the offence, legislation, the particulars of the case, and judicial discretion.

  • Fixed term—in sentencing an offender to time in prison, the court may impose a fixed term of imprisonment. The maximum prison term depends on the maximum penalty available for the offence committed (up to life).
  • Suspended sentence—if a court sentences an offender to imprisonment for 5 years or less, it may order that the term be suspended in whole or part. If further offences are committed, the offender may serve the suspended period of imprisonment, plus any other penalties issued for the new offence/s.
  • Intensive correction order—if a court sentences an offender to imprisonment of 1 year or less, the court may make an intensive correction order for the offender. Offenders on these orders serve their sentence of imprisonment in the community under intensive supervision.
  • Indefinite sentence—in certain circumstances a sentencing court may order an offender serve an indefinite sentence, usually for serious, violent offences and sexual offences. There are conditions the court must consider as part of this sentence including offender characteristics, dangerousness, mental health, and the severity of the offence.

This information is not intended to provide legal advice and has been prepared for the purposes of providing information only. While all reasonable care has been taken in the preparation of this information, no liability is assumed for any errors or omissions.