Will Trump go to prison? Here’s what happens next

World News

Former President Donald Trump became the first US president to be convicted of a crime when a Manhattan jury found him guilty Thursday (local time), and the judge could potentially sentence him to prison—an unprecedented, and unlikely, situation that would impose significant logistical complications and a political “ripple effect,” experts say. 
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 29: Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends his criminal trial at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 29, 2024 in New York City. Judge Juan Merchan will give the jury their instructions before they begin their deliberations today. The former president faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first of his criminal cases to go to trial. (Photo by Charly Triballeau-Pool/Getty Images)
Key Takeaways
  • The 12-person jury convicted Trump of a scheme to improve his chances of winning the 2016 election by hiding hush money payments to an adult film star who claims she had an affair with Trump.
  • Manhattan criminal court Judge Juan Merchan is set to deliver Trump’s sentence—which ranges from a fine of up to $5,000 to four years in prison for each of the 34 felony counts—on July 11, though Trump will almost certainly appeal a conviction, which could draw out the case for months.
  • Given Trump’s status as a first-time offender and the nature of the charges, legal experts generally say jail time is unlikely, though Trump’s repeated violations of a gag order prohibiting him from disparaging various parties involved in the case—and the consequences of his alleged actions—could lead Merchan to impose a more severe punishment.
  • Since prosecutors’ theory was that Trump’s conduct may have altered the results of the 2016 election, “it’s fair to say that it should be treated differently in terms of punishment” than in a “run-of-the-mill financial fraud case,” which would typically draw no prison time for a first-time offender, former Manhattan prosecutor and criminal defence attorney Jeremy Saland told Forbes before the verdict was reached.
  • In New York, Class E felony sentences for offenders who have not been convicted of a felony within the past 10 years, are doled out concurrently in thirds, such as one to three years, meaning Trump would be eligible for parole after one year, Saland said.
  • If Trump were sentenced to a year or less, he would serve out his sentence in a city jail, such as Rikers Island, and would likely be eligible for parole after serving two-thirds of the sentence, Saland said, and if he’s sentenced to more than a year, the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision will determine which of its 44 facilities he is sent to.
Surprising Fact

Trump can still run for president—even if he’s imprisoned—as the Constitution only requires presidential candidates to be at least 35 years old and natural-born citizens who have lived in the U.S. for at least 14 years. If Trump were unable to fulfill his Constitutional duties due to imprisonment, the majority of his cabinet and the vice president could remove him from office and transfer his authority to the vice president, The New York Times noted previously.



The Secret Service has been preparing for the unlikely possibility Trump could be incarcerated since before the trial began, the New York Times reported previously, citing sources familiar with the preparations. Secret Service agents would reportedly be stationed in the facility for 24 hours a day to protect Trump, who would likely be held in an area that is closed off to other inmates.

What To Watch For

Trump could also be sentenced to community service or probation, which could introduce significant logistical complications given his travel schedule and the likely requirement he would have to routinely report to a probation office or have random drop-in visits from a probation officer, Saland said.


Saland said that while he believes Trump deserves prison since his conduct—as alleged—“potentially altered the election and the presidency,” the political fallout would be too severe to merit a prison sentence. “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” Saland said. “Putting him in prison will have consequences and a ripple effect none of us can fathom and understand.”

Key Background

The jury delivered the verdict Thursday after approximately nine-and-a-half hours of deliberations, marking the culmination of the six-week trial, just five months before the November election.

Prosecutors indicted Trump in March 2023 on charges of fraudulently labeling business records as legal expenses, alleging the payments were actually made to reimburse his former attorney, Michael Cohen, for the $130,000 Cohen said he paid adult film star Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence about the 2006 affair she said she had with Trump.

Falsifying business records is a misdemeanour in New York, but prosecutors charged Trump with felonies by claiming he committed the crimes with the intent to commit or conceal another crime, such as illegally conspiring to influence the 2016 election. Trump pleaded not guilty to the charges, denied the affair allegations with Daniels and has repeatedly accused prosecutors and Merchan, without evidence, of working on behalf of Biden to hurt Trump’s chances of winning in November.

This article was first published on forbes.com and all figures are in USD.

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