Trump has been convicted. Here’s what happens next

A New York jury on Thursday found Donald Trump guilty on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in an effort to conceal a hush money payment made to a porn star ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Politically, the unprecedented criminal conviction of a former U.S. president — and presumptive major-party presidential nominee — plunges the nation into uncharted waters, as the Republican continues his campaign against President Joe Biden.

But legally, Trump’s next moves are easier to predict. Here’s what could happen next:

Former US President Donald Trump returning to the courthouse moments before hearing that the jury had a verdict in his criminal trial in New York State Supreme Court in New York, New York, USA, 30 May 2024. 

Justin Lane | Via Reuters

Sentencing schedule

After delivering its verdict, the jury is dismissed. The case then moves to the sentencing phase, a process largely controlled by Judge Juan Merchan.

The judge before adjourning Thursday afternoon set Trump’s sentencing date for July 11 at 10 a.m. ET. He ordered parties in the case to file motions by June 13.

The parties are expected to submit sentencing memos — in which each side presents arguments in favor of its preferred punishment — and other court filings.

Trump will also likely sit for an interview with a probation officer for a presentence report. The interview will likely include questions about Trump’s personal history and criminal record. The responses will be incorporated into a presentence report for the judge, which includes sentencing recommendations for Merchan to consider.

Trump’s attorneys may try to push his sentencing date later — possibly even after the Nov. 5 presidential election. But Merchan is unlikely to grant such a delay without a good reason, New York City defense lawyer Michael Bachner said.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump and lawyer Todd Blanche sit in the Manhattan Criminal Court before the start of his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments in New York City, U.S., April 19, 2024. 

Mark Peterson | Reuters

In the meantime, Trump will be free to speak to the press, travel and continue his presidential campaign. He will also no longer be bound by the gag order that barred him from discussing witnesses, jurors and the judge’s family members, among others, according to Bachner.

Trump’s guilty verdict does not automatically make him a “convicted felon,” however. This label will not be accurate until after he is sentenced in July.

Potential punishments — including jail

The charges against Trump are Class E felonies, the least serious category under New York law. Each count carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Trump’s sentence could include fines and restitution, probation or other conditions, but a sentence of imprisonment is not off the table.

Merchan has broad discretion to determine Trump’s sentence, and he can factor all sorts of things into his final decision.

Some of those factors, such as Trump’s age of 77 and his lack of a prior criminal record, will likely weigh in the former president’s favor.

Read more about Trump’s hush money trial

But Trump’s conduct during the trial could also factor into Merchan’s ultimate decision.

That could be a problem for the former president, who publicly attacked the judge and accused him of political bias throughout the trial.

The judge also previously accused Trump of trying to “intimidate” the court, prompting an expansion of the gag order that Trump would later violate 10 times.

“Trump’s violation of the gag orders, his vilification of the court process, of the judge, or of the prosecution — all that is fair game” for Merchan to consider, Pace Law School professor Bennett Gershman told CNBC.

A lesser sentence is likely

Experts tend to think it is highly unlikely that Trump will face any jail time as a result of the verdict.

“I’d be shocked” if Trump is sentenced to jail, Bachner said. He added that a sentence of probation would be normal for the average defendant convicted of the same crime.

Judge warns Trump of potential jail time for violating gag order

Artist: Jane Rosenberg

Merchan has made it clear throughout the trial that he is mindful of Trump’s unique political status, and he has previously expressed reluctance to put the ex-president behind bars.

More news on Donald Trump

After Trump was held in contempt on May 6 for repeatedly violating his gag order, Merchan said punishing him with jail time was “the last thing I want to do.”

“You are the former president of the United States, and possibly the next president as well,” Merchan told Trump at the time, adding that he worried about both the logistics “and the broader implications” of jailing him.

Gershman told CNBC that a jail sentence is “certainly plausible,” and that it “would not be out of bounds” for Merchan to sentence Trump to some time behind bars.

But he acknowledged that, due to the immense and complex challenges of incarcerating a former president, the judge might instead opt for a sentence of house arrest.

“This case goes to the heart of our democracy, according to the judge,” Gershman said. “He views this case as very, very serious.”

Can Trump still run for president?

Trump’s legal battle will not prevent him from running for president.

Both Bachner and Gershman agreed that Trump will inevitably appeal Mercan’s sentence.

But that appeal process would play out over many months, if not years, they said. That means that even if Trump eventually overturns his conviction, he won’t be able to do so before Election Day.

Former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures as he arrives back at Trump Tower after being convicted in his criminal trial in New York City, on May 30, 2024. 

Timothy A. Clary | Afp | Getty Images

Trump will appeal to the New York Appellate Division’s First Judicial Department. If that court upholds the verdict, Trump may be able to appeal to the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court.

The Constitution requires that American presidents be natural-born U.S. citizens who are at least 35 years old, and who have lived in the country for at least 14 years. It does not bar felons from holding its highest office.

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