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

Donald Trump became the first American president in history to go on trial to answer criminal charges when the hush money case against him finally got under way in New York on Monday 15 April 2024.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee stands accused by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg of falsifying business records, a felony in New York state, in order to conceal a secret payment of $130,000 made on his behalf to the adult film star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign to ensure her silence over an alleged extramarital affair she says took place a 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, her lawyer Keith Davidson, Mr Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, ex-National Enquirer publisher David Pecker and former Trump White House aides Hope Hicks and Madeleine Westerhout were just some of the key witnesses to appear over the course of the enusing trial, which made headlines daily as the defendant and his Washington allies raged against the injustice he believed he was being subjected to.

Should Mr Trump ultimately be found guilty by the jury of 12 Manhattanites, 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
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 and 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.

So far, Mr Trump’s tactic of trying to delay those cases to ensure he faces no further trials before November’s election appears to be working, with no further dates set in stone and much riding on the US Supreme Court’s eventual ruling on the candidate’s “presidential immunity” defense against prosecution.

The hush money trial is currently entering its final stages, with both the prosecution and defense having wrapped up their respective cases and closing arguments due to be heard on Tuesday 28 May after the Memorial Day weekend, with a verdict possible as soon as the end of that week.

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