There are a wide range of penalties that can be imposed by the courts and/or by the Department of Transport. Some of these are specific to traffic offences (such as the accumulation of demerit points) while others are more general in nature (such as fines).
For certain traffic offences, the penalty will include the recording of demerit points against a person’s traffic history. If a person accumulates too many demerit points, their licence will be suspended by the Department of Transport and Main Roads (Queensland Transport).
Learner and provisional licence holders are only allowed to accumulate 3 demerit points in one year, whereas open licence holders are allowed to accumulate 11 demerit points within a period of three years.
Alcohol Interlock Device
An alcohol interlock device is a device that is attached to the ignition systems of vehicles. Before a person can start the vehicle, they must blow into the device which will then record the alcohol concentration in that person’s breath. If the alcohol concentration exceeds the prescribed alcohol limit, the vehicle will not start. After a period of time, a further attempt can be made but for as long as the recorded alcohol concentration exceeds the prescribed limit, the vehicle will not start.
A person will be required to install an interlock device (at their own cost) if:-
- They have been convicted of a high-range drink driving offence (over 0.15%), driving under the influence of liquor or failing to provide a breath sample;
- They have been convicted of an offence of dangerous driving while affected by alcohol; or
- They have been convicted or two or more drink driving offences of any kind within a five year period.
If you choose not to have the interlock device installed, your licence will be disqualified for a further two years in addition to the original disqualification.
Vehicle Impoundment or Forfeiture
If a person has been convicted of a ‘hoon’ offence, such as burn outs, street races, speed trials and high speed offences (in excess of 40km/hr over the speed limit), their vehicle can be impounded or even forfeited.
Additional offences which can resulted in a vehicle being impounded or forfeited include unlicenced driving offences, high level drink driving offences and failing to provide breath samples for alcohol breath tests.
If the forfeiture of a vehicle will cause a person extreme hardship, they can make an application to the court which, if successful, will allow them to do community service instead of their vehicle being forfeited.
Recording of a Conviction
When a person is convicted of an offence, the court often needs to consider whether to record a conviction against the person. If a conviction is recorded, the offence will be recorded in their criminal or traffic history (depending on the type of offence committed).
For some minor penalties (such as a good behavior bond), the court is not allowed to record a conviction. For the more serious imprisonment penalties, the court has no option but to record a conviction. For the rest of the penalties, such as community service and probation, the court has a discretion whether to record a conviction or not.
It is important to keep in mind that, even if the court decides not to record a conviction, both the court and the police will always keep records of the offence and therefore it is not as if the offence just ‘disappears’. This means that if you are convicted of a subsequent offence, your earlier offence may still be taking into consideration in sentencing.
To avoid a conviction being recorded, submissions need to be made to the court at the time of sentencing. As a general rule, the courts will record a conviction against you and therefore if you want no conviction to be recorded, you will need to be able to convince the court that this is appropriate.
Good Behaviour Bond
Although not common for traffic related offences, the court can order that you go on a good behaviour bond. This is essentially a promise from you that you will agree to be of good behaviour for a specified period of time.
If you do not commit any further offences during this time, you will not be further punished. However a breach of a good behaviour bond will result in you being fined and then punished for the offence which caused the breach of the bond.
Restitution and Compensation
The court can order an offender to make restitution for property and/or pay compensation to a person for any loss or destruction of, damage caused to, or unlawful interference with, property in relation to which the offence was committed. This means that if, for example, you are convicted of dangerous driving and while driving you crashed into a fence, you can be ordered to pay the costs of repairing the fence. This order can be made in addition to any other penalty. Similarly, the court can order you to pay compensation for any personal injuries suffered by a person because of your actions.
The court can specify a time limit in which the restitution or compensation must be paid. If you are unable to make the required payment within the prescribed time period, you can apply to the court in writing for an extension of time or you may be able to refer the fine to the State Penalties Enforcement Registry.
A fine is by far the most common penalty imposed on an offender. Fines can be imposed in addition to, or instead of, any other sentence to which the offender is liable. The court can also impose a single fine to cover one or more offences.
If no maximum fine is specified in the legislation which creates the offence, the maximum fine that a Magistrates court may impose for a single offence is 165 penalty units for an individual, which is currently equal to $16,500.00.
If you have been fined but you are unable to pay the fine, you can apply for a fine option order. This application can be made at the time you are fined by the court or at any stage before the end of the time period in which you must pay the fine.
If your application for a fine option order is successful, you can perform community service instead of being required to pay the fine. Clearly, the court will consider your ability to perform community service before granting this application in your favour. The court may also adjourn your application if it needs more time to consider the application.
If a court convicts an offender of an offence punishable by imprisonment or a regulatory offence, the court may make a community service order for the offender if the court is satisfied that the offender is a suitable person to perform community service.
The effect of a community service order is that the offender will be required to perform unpaid community service for the number of hours stated in the order. The number of hours must not be less than 40 hours and not more than 240 hours, and al hours must be completed within one year from the making of the order or another time allowed by the court.
Unlike many other penalties, the court may make or amend a community service order only if the offender agrees to the order being made or amended and also agrees to comply with the order as made or amended.
If an offender breaches a community service order, the court that made the order may re-sentence the offender for the offence for which the order was made in any way in which the court could deal with the offender if the offender had just been convicted of the offence.
In addition, the offender can be charged with contravening a requirement of the community service order and face a fine of up to $1,000. The court also has the power to make further orders relating to the community service order, such as increasing the number of hours for which the offender is required to perform community service or extending the period of one (1) year allowed for the offender to perform community service.
If a court convicts an offender of an offence punishable by imprisonment or a regulatory offence, the court may make a probation order. The effect of a probation order is that the offender is released under the supervision of an authorised corrective services officer for the period stated in the order. In serious cases, the offender can be jailed for no longer than one (1) year and then released at the end of the jail term under the supervision of an authorised corrective services order.
If only a probation order is made, the period of the probation order starts on the day the order is made and must be not less than six (6) months and no more than three (3) years. However if the offender is jailed and then released on probation, the period must not be less than nine (9) months and not more than three (3) years.
Like community service orders, the court may only make or amend a probation order if the offender agrees to the order being made or amended and also agrees to comply with the order as made or amended.
An offender in breach of a probation order may be re-sentenced for the original offence and may also be penalised for the breach of the order by being fined up to $1,000.
Intensive Correction Order
If a court sentences an offender to a term of imprisonment of one (1) year or less, the court may make an intensive correction order (“ICO”). ICOs are extremely onerous on offenders, as they contain a significant number of requirements that must be complied with.
The effect of an ICO is that the offender is to serve a sentence of imprisonment in the community and not in prison.
The consequences for breaching an ICO can be very serious. In particular, the courts have the power to revoke the ICO and commit the offender to the portion of the term of imprisonment to which the offender was sentenced that was unexpired on the day the breach was committed.
If an ICO is made by the court, it must record a conviction.
Imprisonment is obviously the most serious penalty that can be imposed on a person in Queensland and is generally only imposed on people who have committed very serious traffic offences or who repeatedly commit more minor traffic offences.
A sentence of imprisonment does not however mean that the person will actually go to prison. A prison sentence can either be suspended or immediate parole can be granted, in which case the person does not spend any time in prison. Both of these alternatives to actual prison time still require that the person does not re-offend, otherwise they could be sent straight to prison.
A conviction must be recorded if a sentence of imprisonment is imposed. Please contact us if you have been charged with an offence.