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Skip Navigation LinksHome > Legal information > The justice system > Criminal court process > What happens after I have been convicted?

What happens after I have been convicted? 

Legal Information

If you go to court and the court says you have broken the law, the court convicts you. The court can say a conviction is recorded or not recorded. You may have told the court you have done the wrong thing (pleaded guilty), or you may have told the court you have not done anything wrong (pleaded not guilty), but the court still says you are guilty. The court then tells you what happens next, like jail, a fine, or perhaps probation. This is called the penalty or sentence.

Will I go to jail?

A court will only send you to jail if it feels that it cannot properly punish you any other way. There are some things where the court must order jail as part of the sentence.  In Queensland, The Penalties and Sentences Act sets out the sorts of things the court can do.

How does the court decide what I must do?

The court will look at a lot of things like:

  • the need to punish you for what you have done
  • how old you are
  • what grade you left school and what you have done since school
  • your family background
  • whether you have broken the law before
  • how serious what you have done is
  • whether you have done the same sort of thing before
  • what sort of punishment will stop you doing this again
  • if you need some help to try to make sure you don't break the law again.

What sorts of things can the court do instead of sending me to jail?

The court can order you to do things like:

  • pay money, that is a fine
  • stay out of trouble on a good behaviour bond
  • be supervised on probation
  • do unpaid work to help the community (community service order)
  • go to jail but suspended either completely or after some time in jail
  • go to jail but to be served in the community not in a jail - called an intensive corrections order (ICO).

You could be ordered to do more than one of these things, so you might have to pay a fine and be supervised on probation. The court can also order you to pay restitution or compensation if by breaking the law you have damaged something which costs to get it fixed. If you kick a car door and damage the door, the court can order you to pay the car's owner how much it costs to fix the door.

I've been convicted but I'm not going to jail - what do I have to do?

It depends on what the court orders. Remember - you should always keep a copy of any documents you get from the court saying what has happened, and any letters or anything your lawyer has sent you. If you are not sure what happened or what you have to do, talk to a lawyer. But the lawyer will need to see the documents to know how to help you, so try to bring everything you have about your case with you. If you lose a document you can often get another copy from the court.

Offender levy

The offender levy is an administrative fee that defendants found guilty in Queensland courts must pay.

If you are convicted of one or more offences in the magistrates, supreme or district courts, an offender levy will be imposed at the time you are sentenced. The court does not have a choice whether to impose the levy, and do not take the levy or your ability to pay into consideration when deciding your sentence.

The amount of the levy is set out in the Penalties and Sentences Regulation 2005. The amount of the levy will depend on which court you are sentenced in. If you are sentenced in the magistrates court, the levy will be $103.50. If you are sentenced in the Supreme or district court, the amount will be $310.50.

The offender levy is separate from your sentence, and it applies whether your conviction is recorded or not. If your sentence includes a fine, this is separate to the offender levy. The levy cannot be converted to a fine option order or imprisonment.

If you are being sentenced for more than one offence in the same proceeding, you will only have to pay the levy once. If you are charged with multiple offences and choose to be sentenced over two or more days, a levy will be imposed after each proceeding.

If you are re-sentenced for the same offence, you will not have to pay the offender levy again. However if you contravene a requirement of a previous sentence (for example you breach your probation order), this is a new offence and if you are found guilty, you will have to pay a new levy (this does not apply to offences under the Bail Act).

The levy does not apply to re-hearings or appeals.

If you cannot afford to pay the whole of the levy to the court at the time you are sentenced, your details will be registered with the State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER). You can contact SPER to make arrangements to pay by instalments.

If you owe money to the court for compensation, restitution, damages or some other penalty, money you pay to the court or SPER will go towards those unpaid debts before you can pay the offender levy.

If you believe the levy has been incorrectly applied (eg you have had two levies applied and you believe there should have only been one), contact the registry of the court that applied the levy as soon as possible.

I've been ordered to pay a fine - how long do I have?

The court will nearly always give you some time to pay the fine, with a period of time to be spent in jail if you do not pay the fine in time (called 'in default'). So if the magistrate says an amount and five days in default, this is how long you will spend in jail if you do not pay the fine on time.

If you don't pay the fine on time, you don't go straight to jail - the court will send notice of the fine to the State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER). SPER will write to you. You can make arrangements to pay SPER an amount each week/fortnight/month. If you do not follow these arrangements then there may be a warrant to take you to jail for however long the magistrate said was 'in default'.

If you can't pay the fine you can apply to SPER to do unpaid work (community service) instead. This is called a fine option order.

I'm on a good behaviour bond - what now?

The court says you must be of good behaviour, that is not break the law, for a period of time (perhaps six months, a year, 18 months or more) and mentions an amount of money.

You will need to sign a document called a recognisance in which you accept that you have an obligation to be of good behaviour for the time the court has said and also lists the amount of money the court has said.

If you break the law while you are on the good behaviour bond, as well as being in court for breaking the law again, you will lose the amount of money listed in the order and you can be brought back to court for the original case and given a different sentence from the good behaviour bond.

I'm on probation - what does this mean?

If you are on probation, you have been given a probation order. For this to happen, a corrective services officer must think you are suitable and you must agree.

If you are given a probation order:

  • the order can be for from six months to three years
  • you will get a copy of the order before you leave the court area
  • you must report to a corrective services office very soon after court
  • there are some conditions that must be part of the order for the whole time it lasts, like not breaking the law, not leaving Queensland without permission etc
  • there are other conditions that may be part of the order like drug tests
  • if you don't do what the order says you are breaking the law and that is called a breach of probation
  • if you breach the probation order you will have to go back to court

Remember that the order must include the condition that you cannot break the law while you are on the probation order. You may break the law doing something you do not think is very serious, like driving without having a licence. But if you do this while you are on probation and you are convicted, even if a conviction is not recorded, that is a breach of probation and you will have to go to court and be sentenced. So you will be convicted for two things, the unlicensed driving and the breach of probation. Remember also that the probation order can be cancelled before the time it should have finished, and then you will go back to court and be given a different sentence from the probation order.

I have to do community service - what does this mean?

If you have to do community service, then you are on a community service order. For this to happen, a corrective services officer must think you are suitable and you must agree.

If you are on a community service order:

  • you will be ordered to do from 40 to 240 hours of unpaid work
  • the work must be for the benefit of the community, like working clearing up the grounds of a school
  • you must usually finish doing the hours within 12 months of the date the court makes the order
  • the court can say you have less time than 12 months to do the work, or can extend the time to over 12 months
  • you will get a copy of the order before you leave the court area
  • you must report to a corrective services office very soon after court
  • there are some conditions that must be part of the order until the work hours are done, like not breaking the law, not leaving Queensland without permission etc
  • if you don't do what the order says you are breaking the law and that is called a breach of community service order
  • if you breach the community service order you will have to go back to court.

What is a suspended sentence?

Usually when the court says you are sentenced to jail, you go to jail straight away from court. You don't go home first and go to jail some time later. But the court can say your jail sentence is suspended for some time. From the time the sentence is suspended, you don't have to be in jail.

If the court gives you a jail sentence for five years or less, the court can suspend your sentence for up to five years - this is called the operational period. The suspension can start:

  • immediately, called wholly suspended - so you do not go to jail at all as long as you don't break the law during the operational period or
  • after you spend some time in jail, called partly suspended - so you go to jail for a while and then leave when the suspension starts as long as you don't break the law during the operational period.

If you are on a suspended sentence and you break the law, even for something not very serious, talk to a lawyer for legal advice as soon as possible, and especially before going to court and pleading guilty to breaking the law. The lawyer will need to know the exact date the suspended sentence was ordered and how long the court ordered for the operational period. If you do not know these things, you can go and ask the court where you were sentenced to look up the date for you and tell you the operational period.

I've been given an Intensive Correction Order - does this mean I go to jail?

An Intensive Correction Order (ICO) is a jail sentence, but you don't spend time in jail, you stay living in the community. You can only get an ICO if the court gives you a jail sentence for one year or less. If you are given an ICO:

  • you will get a copy of the order before you leave the court area
  • you must report to a corrective services office very soon after court
  • you will have to do community service
  • if you don't do what the order says you will almost certainly have to spend the time in jail instead of in the community.

If you have questions about your sentence or what the court may do, ask a lawyer for legal advice.

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Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if you

  • have been charged with an offence and you're going to court
  • have been convicted of an offence by a court but don't understand what you have to do
  • are on a good behaviour bond and you broke the law again
  • are on probation and broke the law or did not meet the conditions of your probation order
  • are on a community service order and you have broken the conditions of your order
  • were given a suspended sentence and you have broken the law
  • have been given an Intensive Correction Order and you have broken the law
  • have any questions about your sentence or what the court may do.
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Where can I get legal advice

Legal Aid Queensland may provide advice on most areas of criminal law.

If you have been charged with a serious offence or have an urgent matter, we might suggest that you apply for a grant of legal aid if you are eligible, or that you seek private representation, rather than wait for a legal advice booking.

The following services may also be able to provide you with legal advice and assistance.

Community legal centres - many CLCs provide free legal advice and information on criminal law. Check with them to see if they can help with your matter.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private solicitor for advice or representation on criminal law matters.

Important: before seeking legal advice about a criminal charge, you should collect your QP9 from the police prosecutor at your first court date. If you were unable to collect it at your first court date, you should apply to the police/prosecutions office for your QP9. You will need to present photo identification and a written request to the police prosecutor. Contact your local police station if you are unsure where to apply.

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Who else can help?

These organisations may also be able to help with your matter. They do not provide legal advice.

Queensland courts provide information for people going to court (defendants and witnesses) and general information about the different types of courts in Queensland, eg Magistrates, District, Supreme, Mental Health Court, Childrens court, Coroners court, and more.

State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER) is responsible for the collection and enforcement of unpaid infringement notice fines, court ordered monetary fines and Offender Recovery orders issued in Queensland. You can make arrangements to pay SPER an amount each week/fortnight/month.

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Disclaimer - Copyright © 1997 Legal Aid Queensland. This content is provided as an information source only and is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should seek legal advice from a lawyer. Legal Aid Queensland believes the information is accurate as at 1 July 2007 but accepts no responsibility for any errors or omissions and denies all liability for any expenses, losses, damages and costs you might incur due to the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way.



Last modified: 17 April 2014 1:09PM
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What happens after I have been convicted?