What are the chances Donald Trump goes to prison?: The former president is facing four indictments and a total of 91 criminal counts. What are the chances he actually does prison time?
Will Donald Trump Go To Prison? What Could Happen?
When someone is facing more than 90 criminal counts, across multiple cases in multiple jurisdictions, usually the odds are that they will get convicted of at least some of them, and probably get some jail time.
Is that the case with Donald Trump, who has been indicted four times this year, is facing 91 criminal counts, and seems likely to spend a large chunk of 2024 on trial? As with most things with Trump, it’s not quite that simple.
There’s no doubt that Trump faces dozens of charges, and some of them are very serious. In some of those cases, most notably the federal charges that he mishandled classified documents, the case against Trump appears ironclad. It would appear unlikely that Trump would agree to any plea bargain, nor is it actually a practical possibility that the ex-president would flee the country.
For Trump to completely walk and be acquitted on everything appears highly unlikely, although there’s always a chance some amount of the charges are dismissed.
Probably more likely than that is that the cases are delayed for a significant amount of time, which could lead to Trump, or another Republican, being elected president and either pardoning himself or ordering the Justice Department to drop the charges. That would only apply to the federal charges, as the president cannot pardon or dismiss charges in New York or Georgia.
But if he were actually convicted, how much prison time could Trump face?
“If he is convicted, what sentence will the judge hand down? Judges have broad discretion to hand down a sentence they feel is appropriate,” Vox said in a recent analysis of the cases.
“Judge Tanya Chutkan of DC will hear the federal case against Trump for trying to steal the 2020 election, and she has been the toughest sentencer for January 6 rioters, suggesting she may lean more toward the maximum if given the chance. Meanwhile, Judge Aileen Cannon of Florida has the documents case, and she is a Trump appointee who has already arguably stretched the law to try and help him out; a conviction in her courtroom could be on the lighter side.”
But the case would not end with a conviction, necessarily.
“Once he’s sentenced, will higher court judges rescue him on appeal? Some of the cases against him use novel legal reasoning that hasn’t been tested before. So far, the Florida case appears the clearest and best grounded in precedent, while the election cases are more novel (no president has tried to do what Trump did before, after all) and the New York hush money case has been somewhat legally controversial. If Trump is convicted, then, his eventual fate may end up in the Supreme Court.”
Of course, there is one more hope for Trump, even if he is convicted of a crime: His status as a former president, and the lifetime Secret Service protection it confers. As the Washington Post reported in early August, that could make things too complicated for Trump to actually go to prison.
“Trump could force politically and logistically complex questions over whether officials should detail agents to protect a former American president behind bars, leave it to prison authorities to keep him safe, or secure him under some type of home confinement,” the Post wrote, citing experts. One ex-president, Richard Nixon, declined Secret Service protection but all others have kept it.
“Any federal district judge ought to understand it raises enormous and unprecedented logistical issues,” Chuck Rosenberg, former counsel to then-FBI Director James Comey and a frequent anti-Trump cable news voice, told the Post. “Probation, fines, community service, and home confinement are all alternatives.”
The Secret Service did not comment to the Post, on the likely never-before-contemplated question of what happens when an ex-president may very well go to prison.
There remain all sorts of variables in place. But while there are many different reasons that Donald Trump could avoid prison, that he actually does time is far from a remote possibility.
Author Expertise and Experience
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Stephen has authored thousands of articles over the years that focus on politics, technology, and the economy for over a decade. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.
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