Will Donald Trump go to jail?

Donald Trump faces four criminal charges in three different jurisdictions. Nearly 100 felony criminal charges have been filed against the former president, who remains the favorite to win the 2024 Republican primary.

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

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

Among his 91 felony charges, Trump faces a total of about seven centuries in prison, spread among dozens of different charges of varying severity. Obviously, Mr. Trump is not going to be sealed away in a federal penitentiary for all eternity, but the widening range of actions for which he is now being prosecuted is slowly fading away with the possibility that he will avoid 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:

1. The New York case – maximum 136 years

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

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

However, such sentences are imposed only with extenuating circumstances, such as prior felony convictions or based on the seriousness of the crime. Mr. Trump's charge is largely victimless, and so a judge is unlikely to sentence him to anything more than fines or, at most, probation and community service if convicted by a jury.

2. The case of documents – up to 450 years

After bursting into the limelight last year with an FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago, the allegations in that indictment have drawn heavy criticism of Trump from his former deputies, such as Attorney General Bill Barr. The president is accused of grossly mishandling classified information, including in one case allegedly showing classified material to guests at his Bedminster resort.

He is also charged with obstruction of justice and making false statements. the former president faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on the willful concealment count and 20 years on the obstruction of justice count.

While the latter comes with a higher maximum penalty, it is the former that Mr. Trump really needs to worry about. Convictions for knowingly and/or recklessly maintaining classified information often result in prison sentences of several years or more. Trump faces more than 30 of those charges.

3. The case of federal elections – up to 55 years

The Justice Department's most recent indictment charging Trump with crimes related to the 2020 election and his team's months-long effort to alter the results.

There are two main points in this case that should concern the former president. the possibility of being convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy against the right of Americans to vote in free elections, and the possibility of being convicted of directly attempting to prevent the certification of the election by calling a mob to attack the Capitol.

The former is almost certainly a less uphill battle for prosecutors, given how much evidence of the Trump campaign's election manipulation efforts is now public. The real battle in that regard will be for prosecutors to prove that the Trump team's efforts trumped legal challenges to the election results.

The latter is a bit more difficult to prove. Trump and his allies have vehemently denied since the attack itself that the mob of Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol and left lawmakers cowering in fear for their lives was directed by the president himself. The president will likely point to his (delayed) video message cheering the rioters' enthusiasm and urging them to go home, hours after the attack began, as evidence that this did not happen.

However, if convicted of either, he faces stiff maximum prison terms on each charge, particularly the obstruction of justice charges that carry a maximum sentence of 20 years.

4. The case of Georgia – 76.5 years at most

The most recent indictment to be dropped, Fulton County's case against Mr. Trump in Georgia is unique in that it also includes the only charges they have to bring minimum prison terms.

While Mr. Trump is also charged with a host of minor to moderate felonies in the state, it is his charge of violating Georgia's RICO statute that should worry him most. It carries a minimum sentence of five years, with a maximum of 20 behind bars.

A RICO charge will undoubtedly be the most difficult for District Attorney Fani Willis and her team to prove, as it involves fewer allegations (and less evidence) of specific wrongdoing and instead relies on the prosecution convincing a judge and jury that Mr. .Trump to change the election results in Georgia crossed the line and became a completely criminal enterprise.

If that fails, however, Trump also faces 12 other felony charges, all of which carry the potential for jail time.

How likely is Trump to be jailed?

It's hard to say, but one thing is clear: the situation is getting worse every day for Mr. Trump.

Legal experts who have reviewed the Justice Department's prosecution of election challenges have almost uniformly noted the strength of the Justice Department's case and the agency's apparent effort to narrow the case to the point where it can go to trial before the 2024 general election.

The question also remains how long Mr. Trump can sustain costly legal defenses in all four cases, given how many millions of dollars four high-profile criminal defense trials are likely to add up to.

Ultimately, the question of whether Mr. Trump will ever see the inside of a cell is very likely not whether he will be convicted, but whether imprisoning a former president is even possible. If he wins next year's general election, a whole new level of complexity is added to the mix.

The only certainty of multiple prosecutions is this: Donald Trump, regardless of the outcome of his many trials, has already pushed American democracy far into the unknown and unprecedented. Whatever happens from here is an example of the world's most powerful democracy making it up as it goes along.