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I asked Are there any sentencing guidelines for the crimes Trump is accused of?, and the answer is that the normal range of sentences for a non-violent class E first offence felony in NY is 1.5 to 4 years in prison, although courts can be more lenient if circumstances dictate.

However I've read a number of articles which suggest that if Donald Trump is convicted he is more likely to be fined. E.g on the BBC:

The most likely outcome at the end of this legal process is a fine, but there is also a chance he could be sent to prison.

Falsifying business records is usually prosecuted as a misdemeanour.

But the charges against Mr Trump are all the lowest category of felony in New York, which carries a maximum prison sentence of four years per count.

Legal experts tell the BBC, however, that time behind bars is unlikely.

And in Forbes:

Each Class E felony charge carries a maximum sentence of up to four years in prison, though it’s unlikely Trump gets prison time if he’s found guilty, according to a law enforcement official who told Yahoo News “no one gets jail time for (Class E felonies) as a first offender.”

So why the discrepancy? Do New York courts routinely ignore the statutory sentence range for Class E Felonies? Do these pundits know something that would point to a lighter sentence? Or are they simply wrong?

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  • Given the statement "no one gets jail time...as a first offender", it sounds like that 1.5 years is not a mandatory minimum. Apr 8, 2023 at 12:59

1 Answer 1

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Because any offending is at the low end of seriousness

The crimes charged are FALSIFYING BUSINESS RECORDS IN THE FIRST DEGREE, specifically:

The defendant, in the County of New York and elsewhere, on or about [date], with intent to defraud and intent to commit another crime and aid and conceal the commission thereof, made and caused a false entry in the business records of an enterprise, to wit, [specific business record], marked as a record of the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, and kept and maintained by the Trump Organization.

While there are a lot of counts, they all relate to only one “another crime” so multiple convictions are unlikely to increase the penalty substantially.

The seriousness of this felony depends on how serious the “another crime” was. It’s a campaign finance violation for an amount that, in the scheme of the campaign, is barely a rounding error. It isn’t aiding or concealing a murder or multi-million dollar tax avoidance scheme which are at the sorts of things that push towards the high end.

In addition, as far as the law is concerned, Trump is of good character, an upstanding citizen, who has served his country in its highest office. What anyone thinks of him personally is irrelevant, the law only cares about his record. All that mitigates any punishment.

I agree with the pundits, a fine is the most likely outcome if convicted.

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  • I suspect the answer is "no", but - does Trump's "record" in this context count his two impeachments?
    – kaya3
    Apr 6, 2023 at 22:22
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    I thought the "another crime" was hiding information from the public that could easily have changed the outcome of the election.
    – gnasher729
    Apr 6, 2023 at 23:15
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    @kaya3 I'd say no; while technically this is uncharted territory as far as I'm aware, if a a removal from presidential office has any legal impact (and it may not, beyond the potential punishment of disqualification for office), the impeachment is still only the equivalent of an arrignment.
    – sharur
    Apr 6, 2023 at 23:37
  • as far as the law is concerned, Trump is of good character Trump gets a perfect score on "past convictions", sure, but not so much on "regrets his conduct" and "likely to recidivate", items considered by courts in some jurisdictions. (No idea if that’s the case in NY - a ten-second online search found this but it’s not clear what the pre-sentence report emphasizes.)
    – KFK
    Apr 7, 2023 at 15:44
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    Can downvoters please say why in the comments? Apr 7, 2023 at 21:16

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