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What Happens if Trump Is Convicted? Your Questions, Answered

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As the Manhattan criminal trial of former President Donald Trump heads into the final stretch, a jury will soon deliver a verdict that could raise a series of unprecedented legal and political questions if Trump is convicted.

The presumptive Republican nominee is currently facing trial on 34 felony counts over allegations that he falsified business records to conceal a $130,000 hush-money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election. He’s the first former President in the U.S. ever to be indicted, and while he faces three other criminal cases, the New York case will render the first verdict and may be the only case that gets to trial before the election.

Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen testified during the trial that Trump personally approved the hush-money reimbursement plan central to the criminal allegations, but questions remain about Cohen’s credibility given his history of lying and committing crimes.

Prosecutors will need to prove to jurors beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump not only falsified or caused business records to be entered falsely, but that he did so with the intent to commit or conceal another crime related to violating federal and state election laws.

Judge Juan Merchan said that he expects closing arguments on May 28. After the lawyers summarize their cases, the judge will read jury instructions and the jurors will deliberate. If the jurors can’t reach an agreement, the judge would declare a mistrial.

Whether declared guilty or not guilty, Trump has already laid the groundwork for his response and is poised to leverage either outcome to advance his narrative of victimhood and political persecution. But campaigning under the shadow of a criminal conviction is uncharted territory for presidential politics, and the legal issues only become more acute if he wins the presidency in November.

Here’s what would happen if Trump is convicted in the New York case.

Can Trump still run for President?

Yes. A felony conviction will not disqualify Trump from continuing his presidential campaign, even if he were jailed.

That’s because under the Constitution, all natural born citizens who are at least 35 years old and have been a resident of the U.S. for 14 years can run for President. “There is no constitutional bar on a felon running for office,” Richard Hasen, an election law professor at UCLA Law School, told TIME after Trump’s first indictment. “And given that the U.S. Constitution sets presidential qualifications, it is not clear that states could add to them, such as by barring felons from running for office.”

At least two candidates with criminal convictions have run for President in the past, albeit unsuccessfully. About 100 years ago, Eugene Debs ran for President while in a federal prison in Atlanta as the nominee of the Socialist Party, and got close to a million votes without ever hitting the campaign trail. Another convicted presidential candidate, Lyndon LaRouche, ran for President in every election between 1976 and 2004—including one campaign from prison in which he got over 26,000 votes.

Will Trump go to jail?

Trump could potentially face imprisonment if he’s convicted, though most first-time offenders in non-violent cases are sentenced to probation and fines instead. The decision ultimately lies with Judge Merchan, who is not required to imprison Trump if he’s convicted by a jury. 

The 34 charges Trump faces are all considered class E felonies in New York, the lowest tier of felony charges in the state, which carry a maximum sentence of four years each. It’s expected that the judge would impose a concurrent sentence so that Trump would serve all prison time simultaneously—four years maximum—if he goes that route.

But given Trump’s age, 77, lack of a prior conviction, the fact that he’s the first former President to ever be criminally tried, and that he may become President again, legal experts say there’s no guarantee that a conviction would result in jail time. Instead, it’s more likely that Trump is sentenced to pay a fine and serve a form of supervision time if he’s found guilty, perhaps reporting regularly to a civil servant at the city’s Probation Department. Under a probation sentence, he could be jailed immediately for committing any additional crimes.

Convicted felons sentenced for less than a year are generally sent to New York City’s Rikers Island, where Trump’s former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg is currently serving his sentence for crimes related to his work for Trump. Sentences beyond a year would generally be served in one of New York’s 44 state prisons.

Unlike his other criminal cases, if Trump is convicted in this trial and elected President again, he would not be able to try to pardon himself. Falsifying business records is a state crime and only the New York governor, a Democrat, could pardon him. (Even in the federal cases, it’s an untested legal question whether he could pardon himself.)

Can Trump appeal? How long will an appeal take?

If Trump is convicted, he will almost certainly appeal the verdict—a process that could take months or longer to play out. He would likely first take the case to the Appellate Division in Manhattan, and ultimately seek review from the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals in Albany, which has already ruled against Trump’s multiple requests to delay the trial.

The lengthy appeals process would be unlikely to wrap up before Election Day.

Can Trump still vote?

To be determined.

For Trump to lose his voting rights, he would need to be incarcerated at the time of the November election, a scenario that is technically possible but unlikely given his anticipated appeal of any guilty verdict.

While the Constitution does not explicitly address whether convicted felons have the right to vote, several states impose limitations on felons’ voting privileges. In Florida, where Trump lives and has voted since 2020, a felon’s eligibility to vote depends on the laws of the state where the conviction occurred—in this instance, New York, which only revokes a felon’s voting rights while they are incarcerated. 

Therefore, if Trump receives a probationary sentence and resides in the community, he would maintain his eligibility to vote. Likewise, if his appeal of a jail sentence were to extend beyond the election, he would be able to vote.

What does this mean for Trump’s other cases?

While a conviction in the hush-money trial would not directly impact Trump’s other criminal cases, it could influence his strategy and alter the public perception of him and his legal troubles.

For instance, a guilty verdict could bolster the prosecution’s case in the eyes of the public and legal observers, potentially influencing jury perceptions and trial dynamics in the remaining cases. A conviction in the hush-money case also could impact Trump’s willingness to negotiate plea deals or settlement agreements in his other criminal cases.

Prosecutors may also try to use a conviction to undermine Trump’s credibility in future trials, and the judges may take the conviction into consideration when determining sentencing.

In addition to the hush-money case, Trump is facing 40 felony counts in Florida for allegedly hoarding classified documents and obstructing the government’s efforts to retrieve them, four counts in Washington related to his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election, and 13 felony counts in Georgia in connection to his alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 election result in that state.

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