Every offence has a maximum penalty. The maximum penalty is the highest penalty a court can give you for the offence. Depending on the type of offence, the court may consider sentencing you to one or more of the following:
The NSW Department of Attorney General & Justice has produced a Sentencing Information Package. For more information go to the
NSW Sentencing Council website.
Magistrates have the power to find you guilty but not record a conviction. This is commonly known as a 'section 10 dismissal'. A section 10 dismissal can either be instant or come after a period of good behaviour (a good behaviour bond) of up to two years.
A section 10 dismissal means you cannot be given any other punishment. A section 10 dismissal is usually only given where:
Even if the above factors apply to your case, there is no guarantee you will get a section 10 dismissal. If you want to know whether you could get a section 10 dismissal or bond for your case, you should get
If you get a section 10 for a driving matter, you will not get any demerit points for the offence.
The court can find you guilty of an offence and convict you, but decide not to punish you any further. This is also called a section 10A penalty. Unlike a section 10 dismissal, your conviction will be recorded, and if it is a traffic matter you will also get demerit points for the offence.
If you get a fine, you have to pay money to the court within 28 days. For many minor offences this is the most common penalty.
If you do not pay your fine within 28 days the court can send the fine to State Debt Recovery, who can then take enforcement action against you to recover the fine.
If you cannot afford to pay the fine in one go, you can apply for time to pay.
For more information, see
Good behaviour bonds may have other conditions, such as being supervised by the Community Offender Service Probation and Parole, or attending drug and alcohol counselling.
If you breach the conditions of the bond, you may be brought back before the court and re-sentenced for the original offence.
The maximum period of time for a good behaviour bond is five years, unless it is a good behaviour bond given with a section 10 dismissal - the maximum in that case is two years.
You should let the court know if you change your address during the period of the good behaviour bond.
A community service order (CSO) is an order that you perform a certain number of hours of community service. The community service work could be any work that you are suitable for. The maximum amount of community service is 500 hours.
If a magistrate is considering a sentence for a CSO, you need to be assessed. This is usually done by Probation and Parole either at court on the same day (called an 'oral report') or the case is adjourned and you are assessed on another day before coming back to court (called a 'written report').
If you have a health condition that prevents you from doing physical work or have a problem with drugs or alcohol, you may not be suitable for a CSO.
Many criminal and driving offences can be punished by imprisonment. The length of a prison sentence can range from a few months to many years, depending on the offence. A term of imprisonment usually involves (unless the term is of 6 months or less) a 'non-parole period' which is the minimum term that will be spent in prison and an 'additional term' which is the period of time to be served on parole in the community.
If you are sentenced to a term of imprisonment, that does not mean you will automatically go to prison. The magistrate can order that the sentence be suspended for a period of time. This means that you will not be sent to prison as long as you do not commit any further offences and you comply with any conditions imposed by the court.
A magistrate can order that you serve the term of imprisonment as an intensive correction order (ICO). An intensive correction order means you are subject to certain conditions for a period of time. Those conditions can include:
A magistrate can order that you serve a term of imprisonment as home detention. You must live at an approved place and only leave for approved activities (which might be work). You are electronically monitored.
The court can also impose:
The magistrate can make orders that you do not have anything to do with some people (non association orders) or go to particular places (place restriction orders).
If you are convicted of a driving offence, the court may disqualify you from holding a drivers licence for a period of time. At the end of the disqualification period you will need to apply to the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) to get your licence back before you can drive.
If you are concerned about losing your licence, you should get
There are serious penalties for driving while disqualified, including further disqualification periods, large fines and imprisonment. If your drivers licence has been disqualified and you are caught driving, you should get
For more information, see
Losing your licence.
If you have been convicted of a driving offence including alcohol, the court may make a Mandatory Interlock Order. A Mandatory Interlock Order may be made if you have been convicted of:
A Mandatory Interlock Order means you will have to complete a disqualification period during which you cannot drive. When the disqualification has ended, you may be able to obtain an interlock driver licence. If you have an interlock driver licence, you are only allowed to drive vehicles which are fitted with an approved interlock device. This device requires you to provide a breath sample before the vehicle will start. The device must be installed and regularly maintained by an approved provider. Tampering with the device is an offence.
If you do not obtain the interlock driver licence, you will be disqualified from driving for 5 years from the date of conviction (as at 1 February 2015).
The court can make an exemption order that means you do not have to obtain an interlock driver licence or interlock device at the end of your disqualification period. However, an exemption order can only be made in exceptional circumstances.
For more information, see the
Depending on the type of driving offence you are convicted of and your traffic record in the past five years, the magistrate may make a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) Declaration when they sentence you. A HTO Declaration means you will be disqualified from holding a licence, usually for five years, and possibly longer.
Because this period of disqualification is added to the other periods of licence disqualification, you could lose your licence for a very long time.
If you are declared a HTO, you may be able to get the declaration quashed or reduced.
In addition to any court fine you may receive for the offence you committed, you may also be ordered to pay courts costs, a victims support levy, legal costs, criminal compensation and restitution.
Other sentencing options include:
This is where people involved (the police, the victim and the offender) meet and work out an intervention program. This might be something like an apology or rehabilitation.
This is a program for Aboriginal people where members of the Aboriginal community are part of the sentencing process.
When sentencing you, the magistrate will usually go through the details of the offence and your record. They will consider factors, such as:
A magistrate may ask for a verbal report or a written report. A verbal report will usually be prepared on the day. If the magistrate wants a short written report this can also be prepared by a duty probation & parole officer at the court on the day. If the magistrate wants a full pre-sentence report the Probation & Parole Service may need more time. The magistrate may adjourn the matter (usually for about 6 weeks) and order you to attend a probation and parole office to have a meeting with an officer. The report will then be sent to the magistrate before the next court date. You can get a copy of this report from the Probation & Parole Service or the court or prosecutor on the next court date.
If you think that the sentence you are given is too harsh or inappropriate, do not argue with the magistrate. You may be able to appeal to the District Court within 28 days of the decision. Before you file an appeal, you should get
For more information about appeals, see After court.