Last updated 8 January 2019

The Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) and other Queensland legislation set out maximum periods of imprisonment that may be imposed upon people convicted of particular criminal offences. However, lesser periods of imprisonment may be imposed by the courts (unless the defendant is convicted of murder, when life imprisonment is mandatory). It is rare for a person to be given a maximum sentence, as these are generally reserved for the very worst type of offences.

A court must record a conviction if imprisonment is imposed (s 152 Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 (Qld) (Penalties and Sentences Act)).

A court sentencing an offender to a term of imprisonment of three years or less is required to fix a parole release date, which is the date when the offender will be released from custody (s 160B Penalties and Sentences Act). The balance of the period of imprisonment will be served in the community under supervision as parole. This does not apply if the offender is being sentenced for a sexual offence or serious violent offence.

Where the offender is sentenced to a term of imprisonment of more than three years for a sexual offence or serious violent offence, the court may fix the date the offender is eligible to apply for parole (s 160C Penalties and Sentences Act). This is a date on which the offender will be able to apply for parole, but whether the application is successful will be determined by the Parole Board. In the case of a serious violent offence, s 182 of the Corrective Services Act 2006 (Qld) (Corrective Services Act) provides that the parole eligibility date cannot be earlier than 80% of the term of imprisonment. If granted parole, the balance of the term of imprisonment is served in the community under supervision.

Life imprisonment

The period that is actually served when a person is sentenced to life imprisonment is determined by the Parole Board, which has the power to approve or reject applications for parole. Section 181 of the Corrective Services Act provides that prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment must serve at least 15 years of their term of imprisonment (20, 25 or 30 years for certain murder cases) before being eligible to apply for parole. Whether or not they are released is a decision for the Parole Board, not the courts.


When a prisoner is granted early release from prison, they are allowed to serve the remainder of their sentence of imprisonment on parole in the community under supervision. For further information on parole see the chapter on Prisons and Prisoners.