How much could Trump owe if convicted in his hush money trial?

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A jury of 12 New Yorkers will soon decide Donald Trump’s fate in the first-ever criminal trial of a sitting or former president – and their decision could hit the former president’s bank balance.

Mr Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records over a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election, in a bid to silence her about an alleged sexual encounter in 2006.

The 34 charges have been “stepped up” from misdemeanors to class E felonies because prosecutors allege the crimes were carried out in an effort to commit or conceal another crime – election conspiracy and campaign finance and tax law violations.

Though the jury will decide if Mr Trump is guilty or not, it will ultimately be up to the judge to determine what penalty the former president must face if he is convicted of a crime.

Even if he is found guilty, it’s unlikely that he will go to jail as a first-time, non-violent offender.

Instead, New York Justice Juan Merchan could impose other penalties such as fines, probation or conditional discharge in lieu of jail time.

Unlike his multi-million-dollar judgments in his civil fraud and defamation cases, Mr Trump would face a substantially lower fine in his criminal case.

Here’s how much Mr Trump could be fined:

Under New York penal law, a felony fine cannot exceed $5,000.

However, it is unclear if the judge could impose a $5,000 fine for each of the 34 counts or $5,000 altogether.

The law indicates when a person is “convicted of two or more offenses committed through a single act or omission… and the court imposes a sentence of imprisonment or a fine or both for one of the offenses, a fine shall not be imposed for the other.”

Former president Donald Trump sits at the defense table in Manhattan criminal court in New York City on May 21 2024 (via REUTERS)
Former president Donald Trump sits at the defense table in Manhattan criminal court in New York City on May 21 2024 (via REUTERS)

Julie Rendelman, a criminal defense attorney in New York City, told The Independent that there is an argument to be made that each count of falsifying business records is a “separate act” which could mean Mr Trump is charged a maximum of $5,000 34 times.

If that were the case, the maximum financial penalty Mr Trump could face if convicted on all charges would be $170,000.

But it will be up to Judge Merchan to make that decision.

Even if Judge Merchan chooses not to impose financial penalties, Mr Trump will still find himself out of pocket paying court fees and fines for violating the gag order.

The former president has so far racked up $10,000 in fines for breaking the gag order that prohibits him from talking about witnesses, jurors, attorneys, court staff or their families as well as the judge’s family.

He will also need to pay typical court fees but Ms Rendelman says that the “gag order fines are bigger than anything else.”

Closing arguments will begin next week in the case before the jury begins deliberations.