Trump has been convicted. Here's what happens next

Former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump walks to speak to the press as the 12 jurors began deliberating in his criminal hush money trial at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on May 29, 2024.Doug Mills | Afp | Getty Images

A New York jury on Thursday found Donald Trump guilty on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in an effort to conceal a hush money payment made to a porn star ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Politically, the unprecedented criminal conviction of a former U.S. president — and presumptive major-party presidential nominee — plunges the nation into uncharted waters, as the Republican continues his campaign against President Joe Biden.

But legally, Trump's next moves are easier to predict. Here's what could happen next:

Sentencing schedule

After delivering its verdict, the jury is dismissed. The case then moves to the sentencing phase, a process largely controlled by Judge Juan Merchan.

The judge will likely set deadlines for the parties to submit sentencing memos — in which each side presents arguments in favor of its preferred punishment — and other court filings.

Trump will also likely sit for an interview with a probation officer for a pre-sentence report. The interview will likely include questions about Trump's personal history and criminal record. The responses will be incorporated into a pre-sentence report for the judge, which includes sentencing recommendations for Merchan to consider.

Legal experts told CNBC they expect Merchan will set Trump's sentencing date for within two or three months of the verdict.

Trump's attorneys may try to push that date later — possibly even after the Nov. 5 presidential election. But Merchan is unlikely to grant such a delay without a good reason, New York City defense lawyer Michael Bachner said.

In the meantime, Trump will be free to speak to the press, travel and continue his presidential campaign. He will also no longer be bound by the gag order that barred him from discussing witnesses, jurors and the judge's family members, among others.

Potential punishments — including jail

The charges against Trump are Class E felonies, the least serious category under New York law. Each count carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Trump's sentence could include fines and restitution, probation or other conditions — but a sentence of imprisonment is not off the table.

Merchan has broad discretion to determine Trump's sentence, and he can factor all sorts of things into his final decision.

Some of those factors, such as Trump's age of 77 and his lack of a prior criminal record, will likely weigh in Trump's favor.

Read more about Trump's hush money trial

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  • Former top Trump aide Hope Hicks cries as cross-examination begins
  • Trump’s porn star hush money trial enters week four: Here’s what’s happened so far

But Trump's conduct during the trial could also factor into Merchan's ultimate decision.

That could be a problem for the former president, who publicly attacked the judge and accused him of political bias throughout the trial.

The judge also previously accused Trump of trying to "intimidate" the court, prompting an expansion of the gag order that Trump would later violate 10 times.

"Trump's violation of the gag orders, his vilification of the court process, of the judge, or of the prosecution — all that is fair game" for Merchan to consider, Pace Law School Professor Bennett Gershman told CNBC.

A lesser sentence is likely

Experts tend to think it is highly unlikely that Trump will face any jail time as a result of the hush money verdict.

"I'd be shocked" if Trump is sentenced to jail, Bachner said. He added that a sentence of probation would be normal for the average defendant convicted of the same crime.

Merchan has made clear throughout the trial that he is mindful of Trump's unique political status, and he has previously expressed reluctance to put the ex-president behind bars.

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After Trump was held in contempt on May 6 for repeatedly violating his gag order, Merchan said punishing him with jail time was "the last thing I want to do."

"You are the former president of the United States, and possibly the next president as well," Merchan told Trump at the time, adding that he worried about both the logistics "and the broader implications" of jailing him.

Gershman told CNBC that a jail sentence is "certainly plausible," and that it "would not be out of bounds" for Merchan to sentence Trump to some time behind bars.

But he acknowledged that, due to the immense and complex challenges of incarcerating a former president, the judge might instead opt for a sentence of house arrest.

"This case goes to the heart of our democracy, according to the judge," Gershman said. "He views this case as very, very serious."

Appeal is inevitable

Both Bachner and Gershman agreed that Trump will inevitably appeal Mercan's sentence.

But that appeal process would play out over many months, if not years, they said. That means that even if Trump eventually overturns his conviction, he won't be able to do so before Election Day.

Trump will appeal to the New York Appellate Division's First Judicial Department. If that court upholds the verdict, Trump may be able appeal to the Court of Appeals, New York's highest court.

No matter what he does appeals-wise, Trump's legal battle will not prevent him from running for president.

The U.S. Constitution requires that American presidents be natural-born U.S. citizens who are at least 35 years old, and who have lived in the country for at least 14 years. It does not bar felons from holding its highest office.

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