Donald Trump is no stranger to legal woes, however his headache has just gotten bigger with his high-profile indictment.
The criminal charges against Donald Trump were unsealed in a Manhattan courthouse on Tuesday (4 April). During the hearing, the former president was accused of multiple counts of falsifying business records in an attempt to cover up hush money payments.
While prosecutors in New York are pressing ahead with the criminal charges levelled against the businessman, Trump has branded the investigation an "election interference" as he continues his 2024 presidential campaign. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Trump intends to fight the case against him, but just how serious are the charges against him and what punishment could he face if found guilty? Here's everything you need to know.
What are the charges Donald Trump is facing?
The unsealed indictment showed that 34 felony charges have been levelled against the former president. The prosecution case set out their main accusations in the statement of fact document, which read: “The defendant DONALD J. TRUMP repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records to conceal criminal conduct that hid damaging information from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election.”
This includes 11 counts relating to invoices between him and his former lawyer Michael Cohen, 11 counts relating to checks reimbursing Cohen and 12 counts relating to alleged falsified ledger entries.
The charges relate to a $130,000 hush money payment made to former porn star Stormy Daniels. Cohen paid Ms Daniels the amount before the 2016 presidential election, in order to stop her from talking to the media about an alleged affair with Trump and tarnishing his reputation during the campaign.
The allegations of falsified business records comes from Trump compensating Cohen for the payment made to Ms Daniels. The prosecution says that Trump made the payment to Cohen citing “legal fees” on the cheques, however Cohen later stated that this was reimbursement for the hush money payment.
The unsealed indictment also alleged that money was paid to silence former Playboy model Karen McDougal and a former doorman of Trump Tower who claimed to hold information about Trump allegedly having a child out of wedlock. He was allegedly paid $30,000, while Ms McDougal was allegedly paid a six-figure sum.
How serious are the charges?
Falsifying business records is normally classed as a misdemeanour in New York. This would mean that under normal circumstances, each charge could carry a maximum prison sentence of one year.
However, Trump’s 34 charges were upgraded to felonies by the New York District Attorney’s office. DA Alvin Bragg said that the level was upgraded from misdemeanour to felony for all charges as Trump had allegedly attempted to conceal criminal behaviour.
The criminal behaviour was not the hush money payment itself, as this is not an illegal activity. However, concealing money spent to aid a presidential campaign is illegal under New York election law.
In a press conference after Trump’s indictment hearing, Bragg said: "At its core, this case today is one with allegations like so many of our white-collar cases. Allegations that someone lied, again and again, to protect their interests and evade the laws to which we are all held accountable."
What punishment could Donald Trump face if found guilty?
One felony count of falsifying business records carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison. Trump faces 34 separate charges.
In theory, if found guilty on all charges, the former president could be handed a maximum sentence of 136 years in prison. However, he is unlikely to face such a harsh sentence even if found guilty on all counts.
As a first time-offender, Trump would likely be given a much more lenient prison stay, if any at all.