What prison sentence could Trump face if he is convicted at his hush money trial?

Republican presidential contender is the first former US president to go on criminal trial

Joe Sommerlad
Monday 22 April 2024 07:47 BST
Trump falsely accuses Biden of ‘lawfare’ against him as hush money trial looms
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Donald Trump has become the first American president in history to go on trial on criminal charges, after his hush money case got under way in New York.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee for 2024 stands accused by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg of falsifying his business records, a felony in New York state, in order to allegedly conceal a secret payment made to the adult film star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign to ensure her silence over an alleged extramarital affair one decade earlier.

Mr Trump denies the affair and any wrongdoing in the case after being hit with 34 felony charges by Mr Bragg a little over a year ago.

Ms Daniels, former Playboy model Karen McDougal, Mr Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, ex-campaign aide Hope Hicks and perhaps even Mr Trump himself could all be compelled to appear as witnesses in what promises to be a sensational multi-week trial.

Should Mr Trump ultimately be found guilty, he could theoretically face more than a decade in prison, according to CNN chief legal analyst Laura Coates, who points out that the felony counts against Mr Trump are classified as Class E crimes in New York, which are the lowest level felonies in the state.

The maximum sentence for each count is four years in prison, which would add up to 136 years behind bars, but as Ms Coates explains, New York imposes a 20-year sentencing cap for this type of offence, with a decision on whether the sentences run concurrently or consecutively left up to the judge.

Given that Mr Trump also has no prior criminal record and the crimes of which he stands accused are non-violent in nature, Judge Juan Merchan could ultimately incline towards leniency and only sentence him to a fraction of the maximum jail time allowed.

Former president Donald Trump speaks with the media at his trial on Friday 19 April (AP)

Alternatively, the justice could simply choose to place him on probation, with the threat of imprisonment hanging over the defendant in the event that he does not abide by any conditions that are ultimately imposed upon him.

The bigger questions surrounding the hypothetical incarceration of Mr Trump is what kind of Secret Service detail (if any) he might receive for his protection as a former president as an inmate and what would happen if he were to be convicted of a crime but go on to win November’s presidential election nonetheless.

In addition to trying to win a belated second term in the White House, the 45th president is also battling three other criminal indictments in Florida, Washington DC and Georgia and is appealing two further judgements against him in New York that recently required him to post multi-million dollar bonds.

The hush money trial finally got under way in Manhattan on 15 April. Now, opening statements are expected in the case on Monday 22 April.

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