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News articles today (such as this one) have been saying that the former president Trump has only been indicted and arraigned twice (4 April 2023 at the Manhattan state court of New York, and 13 June 2023 at a federal district court in Miami, Florida) despite the dozens of lawsuits that have been filed against him since he was elected president.

Wikipedia says that before he was elected president Donald Trump and his businesses entities were involved in over 4,000 legal cases. I wonder how many of these were criminal charges against Mr. Trump personally (as opposed to his business entities), and how many among them resulted in arraignment?

I came across this Huffpost blog article written before the 2016 election: Trump's Criminal History Should Be Front and Center. Although on quick reading it seems most of these charges were against Trump's business / non-profit entities, might there be among them criminal charges filed against him personally? There is also a CREW report listing 56 "credible" criminal offenses since Trump launched his campaign in 2015.

My question is:

  • If there were criminal charges against him personally but zero (0) arraignment, then these 2 arraignments (with a few in the works) will be new territory for him. It's a testament to his lawyers that he could have those previous cases settled / dismissed. It would be nice if the answer can list them.
  • If he has been arraigned before, what were the charges and when?
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Arraignments are only used for criminal matters. While Trump has been involved in many lawsuits, as have his businesses, only one prior case to his Presidency was criminal or quasi-criminal and might have involved an arraignment (although not necessarily):

In 2006, the Town of Palm Beach began fining Trump $250 per day for ordinance violations related to his erection of an 80-foot-tall (24 m) flagpole flying a 15-by-25-foot (4.6 by 7.6 m) American flag on his property. Trump sued the town for $25 million, saying that they abridged his free speech, also disputing an ordinance that local businesses be "town-serving". The two parties settled as part of a court-ordered mediation, in which Trump was required to donate $100,000 to veterans' charities. At the same time, the town ordinance was modified allowing Trump to enroll out-of-town members in his Mar-a-Lago social club.

Some municipal ordinance violations are treated procedurally like traffic tickets, and some are treated more like misdemeanor criminal offenses (which do generally involve arraignments).

After his Presidency, one of his business entities was convicted of rare criminal charges against an organization:

On December 6, 2022, Trump's company The Trump Organization was convicted on 17 criminal charges.

Lawsuits do not give rise to arraignments. This isn't part of the civil lawsuit process.

It is estimated that 70 to 100 million Americans have criminal records because they have been convicted of at least one criminal offense. This is about one in three or one in four American adults. The number of Americans who have even been arraigned for a crime, in a case that is not currently pending, who have never been convicted of a crime, is probably on the order of 1 million to 10 million. Probably tens of millions of Americans who have never been arraigned, however, have been arrested but never charged with any crime, in addition to those who have been arraigned and not convicted with no charges pending, those who have been arraigned only in cases that are still pending, and those who have been convicted of crimes.

Lots Of Crimes That Are Committed Are Never Prosecuted

There is also a CREW report listing 56 "credible" criminal offenses since Trump launched his campaign in 2015.

These are cases in which there is there are credible allegations that Trump acted in ways that could have been the basis for committing a crime. But, CREW is not alleging that any of these circumstances (other than the 2022 Trump Organization conviction and the two felony cases upon which Trump has been arraigned in 2023) have resulted in any court action being taken to press criminal charges.

It is possible that Trump or one of his businesses was the subject of criminal investigations that did not result in charges being brought, but there is really no way to know that this is the case. And, there is nothing terribly dishonorable about being investigated for a crime but not ultimately charged with any criminal offense.

By analogy, if you are speeding, you are committing a traffic offense. The vast majority of the time, you are not ticketed for speeding even if a law enforcement office's radar gun tells the law enforcement officer that you were going slightly over the speed limit. Eventually, after the statute of limitations for traffic offenses (which is quite short) runs, you can't even be charged with those offenses.

In the same way, while unlawful sexual contact or sexual assault is a crime, if charges are not brought within the statute of limitations (something we know empirically to be quite common) then it doesn't result in criminal charges even though the offender committed a crime.

Likewise, most civil fraud lawsuits allege conduct that could have been prosecuted as a crime if authorities sought to do so. But, in practice, criminal prosecutors with limited resources most often chose not to bring criminal fraud prosecutions in cases where a civil fraud lawsuit could bring complete relief to the party who was harmed by it.

Not All Illegal Conduct Is Criminal

Many kinds of conduct that can give rise to civil lawsuits cannot generally give rise to criminal charges at all. These include breaches of contract, negligently but unintentionally causing a personal injury, disagreeing over the interpretation of the tax laws in a way that cause the government to allege that you failed to pay the full amount of the taxes that you owe, employment discrimination, and many kinds of housing discrimination.

Big Businesses Are Usually Parties To Many Lawsuits

Business entities, large and small, are routinely involved in lots of civil lawsuits, sometimes as plaintiffs and sometimes as defendants, and the number of lawsuits is, more or less, usually roughly proportional to the economic scale of the enterprise.

For example, almost every landlord brings eviction and rent collection lawsuits from time to time, and sometimes is sued by tenants over security deposit issues and alleged defects in the maintenance of the rental property. Almost every significant property owner will sooner or later become involved in litigation over boundary discrepancies or easements or in eminent domain cases. Almost every developer will sooner or later be involved in construction defect and/or mechanic's lien litigation.

Almost every bank brings foreclosure lawsuits and collection lawsuits when loans are allegedly not paid as agreed or loan covenants are not met.

Almost every business with a great many employees with eventually be involved in some sort of lawsuit with an employee.

A large business will typically litigate a significant tax dispute at least every few years.

Most of the lawsuits filed in the United States are brought by banks alleging defaults on loans, landlords alleging unpaid rent, and governments collecting unpaid taxes.

For example, in Colorado, in 2022, there were 62,996 tax collection cases, 29,836 evictions, 1,971 simple mortgage foreclosures, 66,875 debt collection cases, and 306 personal property repossession cases, for a total of 161,984 civil lawsuits out of 199,293 civil lawsuits in the state (about 81%), the lion's share of which are brought by financial institution lenders, landlords, and government tax collectors.

Whether 4,000 lawsuits over several decades is a lot or a little for a large business enterprise, or is just par for the course, really comes down to the nature of, and scope of, the businesses involved. The character of the allegations in the lawsuit, and whether the allegations are atypical of lawsuit involving large business enterprises, is really more telling than the number of lawsuits.

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  • The Palm Beach case sounds like something that was probably a misdemeanor, if anything.
    – Barmar
    Jun 14, 2023 at 15:05
  • I updated the question with a few links to reports indicating more criminal charges that maybe relevant to the answer. I was careful not to broaden the scope of the Q, but it would be nice if the answer could include more criminal charges that have been filed against him personally, but that his lawyers successfully quashed before the arraignment stage. Jun 14, 2023 at 15:53
  • @GratefulDisciple There is lot of alleged criminal conduct that was only pursued with civil charges or with no criminal charges filed, but I have no awareness of other criminal charges brought. An arraignment is very early in the process, typically within 24-48 hours after charges are filed and often just a few hours after.
    – ohwilleke
    Jun 14, 2023 at 17:00
  • @ohwilleke Thanks. I'm still learning about court procedures and lawsuit types. In addition to those civil charges for alleged criminal conduct, can there be criminal charges "ready to file" that could have been "quashed" by Trump's lawyers before being filed to the court? Or in theory, can there be criminal charges filed that can be dismissed by the judge or recalled by the prosecutor as to prevent the necessity of arraignment? Jun 14, 2023 at 17:18
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    @ohwilleke Thank you for explaining that to a newbie like me. So it looks like Trump is really in a new territory in his decades-long involvement with the law ! If he survives this politically, I'll be amazed, but I will also be concerned at the politicization of the law & courts & judges as an institution that should have brought stability to the public order. Jun 14, 2023 at 18:02

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