Maximum Penalties

The legislation that defines an offence sets the maximum penalty that courts can impose on anyone convicted of that offence.

Maximum penalties are reserved for the worst, most serious examples of an offence. For a single offence, judges and magistrates may not impose a heavier sentence than the maximum penalty for that offence.

Penalty Scale

The maximum penalty reflects parliament’s view on the seriousness of the offence. Maximum penalties for many offences, including all offences in the Crimes Act 1958, are set according to a penalty scale, as outlined in the Sentencing Act 1991.

The penalty scale for imprisonment has nine levels, ranging from Level 9 (which equates to six months’ imprisonment) to Level 1 (life imprisonment). The Victorian penalty scale also includes a maximum fine that can be imposed with each level of imprisonment (except for Level 1 life imprisonment).

Here are some examples of offences ranked according to the penalty scale.

Level Maximum term Sample offences
Level 1 Life imprisonment Murder
Trafficking in a drug of dependence (large commercial quantity)
Level 2

25 years

Rape
Sexual penetration of a child under 12 years
Armed robbery
Aggravated burglary
Arson causing death
Level 3 20 years Manslaughter
Intentionally causing serious injury
Culpable driving causing death
Level 4 15 years Recklessly causing serious injury
Handling stolen goods
Trafficking in a drug of dependence (not a commercial quantity)
Arson
Level 5 10 years Threats to kill
Indecent assault
Theft
Negligently causing serious injury
Level 6 5 years Recklessly causing injury
Knowingly possess child pornography
Possession of a drug of dependence (for the purpose of trafficking)
Level 7 2 years Going equipped to steal
Level 8 1 year Cultivation of a narcotic plant (not for the purpose of trafficking)
Possession of a drug of dependence (not for the purpose of trafficking)
Level 9 6 months Obstructing a police officer

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