Thursday, July 18, 2024

Travel trouble, gun restrictions and no more ‘Mr Trump’: the trials of life as a felon

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It’s not yet clear whether it will cost him the election, but the guilty verdicts against Donald Trump in a New York hush-money trial may make it harder for him to own a gun, travel to Canada or be approved for a mortgage. It could also change how he is referred to in some newspapers.


It’s unlikely to be at the forefront of the former president’s mind as he reflects on the verdict, but one immediate consequence is that Trump will probably lose the honorific title of “Mr” in the news pages of the UK’s Daily Telegraph.

The Telegraph’s style guide states: “Defendants in criminal court cases … are to be referred to with their honorific Mr, Mrs or Miss: the newspapers and website should share the court’s presumption of innocence. On conviction they lose the honorific, although if cleared on appeal they reclaim it.”

In its front-page story on Friday, it appears the paper has already applied the rule: the former president is referred to as “Trump” throughout the copy, while his former lawyer Michael Cohen is also not afforded an honorific, having been sentenced to prison in 2018 after pleading guilty to campaign finance charges and lying to Congress. Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, the two women to whom Trump was accused of making hush-money payments, are referred to with the title “Ms” throughout.

The former president has been spared the same fate in the US newspaper of record, however. In 1973 the New York Times updated its own style guide to say that with “very rare exceptions” those convicted of a crime would no longer be denied an honorific.

“We will no longer omit the ‘Mr.’ before the names of those who, as the present style states, have been convicted of crime or who have unsavory reputations known without question to be deserved,” the paper’s then managing editor, AM Rosenthal, said.

International travel

If the former president finds himself back in the White House come November, he might find his ability to conduct international diplomacy hampered.

Many countries refuse to issue visas to people convicted of criminal offences. That could make travel to even America’s neighbour Canada difficult, as foreign nationals who have been convicted of a criminal offence anywhere in the world are likely to be refused entry there.

Fortunately for Trump, there is a precedent: George W Bush, who was arrested for driving under the influence in 1976, was reportedly able to obtain a special waiver while president in order to travel to Canada.

Gun rights

Trump has pledged to undo all restrictions on gun ownership enacted by Joe Biden should he return to the White House. But the former president may find his own ability to own a firearm severely curtailed.

Under federal law, convicted felons lose their firearm rights, though separate state laws do allow felons to apply to have their gun rights reinstated. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, gun restoration laws often require a convicted felon to either apply to have their felony expunged or receive a governor’s pardon. In Trump’s home state of Florida, the pardon to reinstate his gun rights would fall to his erstwhile rival for the Republican nomination Ron DeSantis, with whom his relations have been somewhat frosty of late.

Getting a mortgage

Some financial institutions in the US will not lend money to convicted felons and can refuse any requests at their own discretion. However, many analysts note that a mortgage lender is more likely to look at the overall financial position of a customer, including their credit score, employment history and other existing liabilities.

That could be cold comfort to Trump, who owes more than $454m after a New York judge found him, his eldest sons and associates guilty of intentionally committing financial fraud over the course of a decade, in a civil trial earlier this year. Trump is appealing against that judgment.

Voting for himself

Despite the fact that Florida – the state in which Trump is registered to vote – restricts the voting rights of people with felony convictions, Thursday’s conviction will probably not affect his ability to vote in November’s election. That’s because Florida allows people with an out-of-state conviction to vote if the state where they were convicted allows it. In New York, someone with a felony conviction can vote as long as they are not incarcerated.

Importantly, the conviction will not affect Trump’s legal ability to run for president. The constitution does not bar felons from running for office.

This article was amended on 6 June 2024 to clarify that the governor’s pardon referred to in the Gun rights section is for the loss of gun ownership rights in that state, rather than a pardon for Donald Trump’s conviction as an earlier version could have implied.

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