Will Donald Trump go to prison?

Donald Trump faces four criminal indictments in three separate jurisdictions. Nearly 100 felony criminal charges are leveled against the former president, who remains the odds-on favourite to win the 2024 Republican primary.

As his legal battles grow more complex by the day, a serious question has emerged: Whether Mr Trump will win the nomination and campaign for the general election as a convicted criminal.

That possibility, in turn, raises another, simpler question: Will the 45th President of the United States go to prison?

Between his 91 felony counts, Mr Trump faces a total of roughly seven centuries in total jail time, spread between dozens of various charges of differing seriousness. Obviously, Mr Trump is not going to be sealed inside a federal penitentiary for all eternity, but the increasingly wide range of actions for which he is now being prosecuted is slowly chipping away at the likelihood that he will evade the inside of a cell forever.

Here, we take a look at the four prosecutions Mr Trump currently faces, and how each affects his chances of campaigning behind bars next year:

The first indictment to drop against the former president, this one also deals with conduct committed the furthest in the past. Donald Trump is accused of 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree, a felony under New York state law.

Each count carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

However, such sentences are only doled out with mitigating circumstances, like previous felony convictions or based on the seriousness of the crime. Mr Trump’s accusation is largely victimless, and as such a judge is not likely to sentence him to anything more than fines or, at the most, probation and community service were he to be convicted by a jury.

The trial for the case is set for 25 March.

After exploding into the public eye last year with an FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago, the allegations spelled out in this indictment have earned Mr Trump serious criticism from his former deputies, like Attorney General Bill Barr. The president is accused of mishandling classified information in an egregious manner, including in one instance supposedly showing classified materials to guests at his Bedminster resort.

He’s also accused of obstructing justice and making false statements; the ex-president faces a max of 10 years in prison per count of willfully retaining secrets and 20 years per count of obstructing justice.

While the latter comes with a higher maximum sentence, it’s the former that Mr Trump truly should be worried about. Convictions of willful and/or reckless retention of classified information frequently result in prison sentences of several years or more. Mr Trump faces more than 30 of those charges.

The trial in this case is set for 20 May.

The Department of Justice’s most recent indictment charging Mr Trump with crimes was related to the 2020 election, and the months-long effort by his team to change the results.

There are two basic parts of this case that should concern the ex-president; the possibility that he will be convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiring against Americans’ right to vote in free elections, and the possibility that he will be convicted of directly attempting to block the certification of the election via summoning a mob to attack the Capitol.

Donald Trump claimed he witnessed “filth” and “decay” in Washington DC after his arraignment on 3 August

The former is almost assuredly less of an uphill battle for prosecutors, given how much evidence for the Trump campaign’s election manipulation efforts is now public. The real battle in this regard will be for prosecutors to prove that the Trump team’s efforts went beyond legal challenges to the election results.

The latter is a bit harder to prove. Mr Trump and his allies have fiercely denied since the attack itself that the mob of Trump supporters who attacked the Capitol and left lawmakers hiding in fear for their lives was directed by the president himself. The president will likely point to his (belated) video message cheering on the rioters’ enthusiasm and urging them to go home, hours after the attack began, as evidence that this was not the case.

Should he be convicted of either, however, he faces steep maximum prison sentences for each count, in particular the obstruction of proceeding charges which carry 20-year maximum terms.

The trial in this case is set for 4 March.

Former U.S. President Trump appears on classified document charges after a federal indictment at Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Courthouse, alongside his aide Walt Nauta and attorneys Chris Kise and Todd Blanche in Miami, Florida, U.S., June 13, 2023 in a courtroom sketch

Former President Donald Trump is shown in a police booking mugshot released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office

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