Could Donald Trump face jail? Prison conditions facing former president following guilty verdict at hush money trial

31 May 2024, 11:21 | Updated: 31 May 2024, 12:33

Could Donald Trump face jail? Prison conditions facing former president following guilty verdict at ‘rigged’ hush money trial
Could Donald Trump face jail? Prison conditions facing former president following guilty verdict at ‘rigged’ hush money trial. Picture: Alamy

By Danielle de Wolfe

Donald Trump is facing the very real possibility of jail time after being found guilty on 34 counts over payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels - but what conditions could the former US president be facing?

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Trump insisted the verdict was "disgraceful" and "rigged" after he was found guilty of falsifying business documents by a New York jury on Thursday.

The decision regarding his sentencing is now in the hands of Judge Juan Merchan, who has overseen the hush money case and been the subject of numerous accusations of bias by the former president on his platform Truth Social.

It comes as Trump is also due to stand trial in three other criminal prosecutions.

Trump now faces sentencing in New York at 10am on July 11.

Being found guilty of falsifying business records in the first degree is classed as a class E felony in the state of New York.

It's the the least serious category where US felonies are concerned, a crime punishable by up to four years in prison.

The 34 charges were “stepped up” from misdemeanors to class E felonies because the crimes were an effort to commit or conceal another crime – in this instance, election conspiracy and campaign finance violations.

According to CNN chief legal analyst Laura Coates, Trump could be facing more than a decade in prison in total.

It's the the least serious category where US felonies are concerned, a crime punishable by up to four years in prison.
It's the the least serious category where US felonies are concerned, a crime punishable by up to four years in prison. Picture: Alamy

Sentencing Options

Now, there are three realistic possibilities where sentencing is concerned - a fine, community service or a jail term.

Prison remains a possibility, with fines, probation or community service (or a combination of all three) a more likely scenario.

Each of the 34 felony charges carries up to a $5,000 fine and a four-year prison sentence, with the cap on the total jail time for a class E felony being 20 years.

Analysis of similar cases by Norm Eisen, who served as special counsel during Trump's first impeachment, showed that around 10% of cases resulting in jail time.

The sentence depends on how Merchan interprets Trump’s conduct, most notably his apparent lack of remorse and violations of gag orders.

The next step is for both the prosecution and Trump’s lawyers is to submit recommendations for sentencing, alongside the probation office.

Read more: Can Donald Trump still stand for President? And could he go to jail? Hush money verdict explained

This is known as a confidential presentencing report, which is handed to the judge.

However, sentencing will likely be delayed, given the likelihood of Trump's lawyers appealing the decision.

The initial appeal must be made within 30 days of the verdict, with a further six months window in which to file a full appeal to the first judicial department.

It's the the least serious category where US felonies are concerned, a crime punishable by up to four years in prison.
It's the the least serious category where US felonies are concerned, a crime punishable by up to four years in prison. Picture: Alamy

Jail Time

Given Trump has no prior criminal record and the offence is not classed as violent, the likelihood of jail time remains an unlikely option.

Any sentence in excess of one year in jail would see Trump forced to serve the time in a New York penal facility under state law.

However, if his sentence is shorter than a year, it would instead be served at one of New York City's correctional facilities, such as Rikers Island, a prison located in the Bronx.

No US prison has ever had to deal with the possible imprisonment of a former president, so unprecedented security measures would be required to facilitate such a sentence.

If his sentence is shorter than a year, it would instead be served at one of New York City's correctional facilities, such as Rikers Island, a prison located in the Bronx.
If his sentence is shorter than a year, it would instead be served at one of New York City's correctional facilities, such as Rikers Island, a prison located in the Bronx. Picture: Alamy

New York City's Democratic mayor, Eric Adams, has said both Rikers Island and the Department of Corrections are "ready" to accommodate the ex-President.

Rikers Island has become one of the most infamous jails in the US - primarily down to its harsh conditions, which prompted the New York City Council to vote for its closure in 2019.

Currently, Rikers Island is home to around 6,200 inmates.

Nine detainees died in custody in Rikers in 2023, with the jail formerly labelled "a moral stain on the city".

NYC Board of Correction photos show conditions inside the jail
NYC Board of Correction photos show conditions inside the jail. Picture: NYC Board of Correction
Currently, Rikers Island is home to around 6,200 inmates.
Currently, Rikers Island is home to around 6,200 inmates. Picture: Alamy

House Arrest

Trump could also be sentenced to house arrest as an alternative to jail time.

The sentence would see the former US president forced to wear an ankle bracelet which would monitor his movements - a more secure and cost-effective alternative to prison.

It means the former president could carry out the sentence at a residence outside the confines of New York - such as his infamous Mar-a-Lago home in Florida.

The location would, however, hinge on the duration of the sentence.

The option of house arrest would also allow Trump to continue campaigning - as we have previously discussed, there is no law restricting an individual who has been convicted from running for president.

It means the former president could carry out the sentence at a residence outside the confines of New York - such as his infamous Mar-a-Lago home in Florida.
It means the former president could carry out the sentence at a residence outside the confines of New York - such as his infamous Mar-a-Lago home in Florida. Picture: Alamy

This option could see the former president hold news conferences and remain active on social media from the confines of his home.

But Trump is unlikely to be sentenced to prison, experts say. He is a first-time offender, and the crime he has been found guilty of is a non-violent paper crime.

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