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What would a Trump arrest look like? Experts lay out New York law on fingerprinting and processing

Donald J. Trump

Trump calls for protests ahead of his anticipated indictment in New York have generated mostly muted reactions from supporters, with even some of his most ardent loyalists dismissing the idea as a waste of time or a law enforcement trap. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

After Donald Trump announced this weekend that he expects to be arrested Tuesday, speculation spread about what his hypothetical arrest might look like. Could the public expect to see the former president perp-walked into Manhattan Criminal Court in handcuffs?

Former New York City prosecutors and a defense attorney laid out to Law&Crime what aspects of Trump’s possible processing have been made clear under the statute and what elements may depend on the discretion of law enforcement — or Trump himself.

“He must be fingerprinted, and the fingerprints are sent to Albany,” former Brooklyn homicide prosecutor Julie Rendelman said in an interview.

“They are not required to handcuff him,” noted Rendelman, a Law&Crime legal analyst. “Nor is a ‘perp walk’ required.”

Fingerprinting takes place at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office at 1 Hogan Place, and she said that those prints are sent to New York’s capital of Albany, which typically takes “some hours.”

Then, the walk over to 100 Center Street begins, where throngs of reporters from across the world surely would be waiting for Trump. The former president’s ex-chief strategist Steve Bannon was handcuffed behind his back and smirking when reporters photographed him walking into court in metal restraints. Experts say that law enforcement has broad discretion over whether that is necessary — and so does Trump.

Rendelman doesn’t expect that to happen — “unless Trump wants it that way.”

“It would not be farfetched to imagine that if Trump is indicted he might want to be put in handcuffs for the world to see,” she noted. “From his perspective, such a scene would further enrage those who support him and view his arrest as purely political.”

In a stream of all-caps in his social media posts, Trump called for his supporters to “protest,” using messaging that many commentators likened to his calls before the Jan. 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol


Trump’s attorney Joe Tacopina and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office did not respond to Law&Crime’s request for comment on what processing the former president might look like.

That said, much of that process is laid out in Section 160.10 of New York State Law, titled “Fingerprinting; duties of police with respect thereto.” The statute is silent on handcuffs.

New York Law School Professor Rebecca Roiphe, a former prosecutor in Manhattan, notes that Trump does not have to be handcuffed, despite reports from Fox News that local authorities have discussed that possibility.

“It’s normal practice, but they can negotiate something else — a summons instead of an arrest,” Roiphe noted.

Law&Crime host Brian Buckmire, a seasoned defense attorney with the Legal Aid Society of New York, agreed that authorities have such discretion and said that such negotiations might also extend to a bail package.

“Either there will be no bail or an amount that was negotiated beforehand and paid immediately,” Buckmire said. “I doubt bail would be set.”

Buckmire also believes a warrant would be “too messy,” since Trump left his native New York City for Florida. That would involve asking Florida and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to extradite him.

“I don’t think that would be easy to execute politically,” Buckmire noted.

There is also no guarantee that Trump will be indicted on Tuesday, which is up to the discretion of a grand jury.

The nature of any prospective charges is also uncertain, though press reports indicate that Manhattan prosecutors have been looking into allegations from seven years ago that Trump paid hush money to pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels to silence their affair. Prosecutors are reportedly eyeing a possible violation of a misdemeanor statute criminalizing the falsification of business records, which would become a felony if commissioned with “intent to defraud” in order to commit or conceal another crime.

If indicted, Trump would be the first president in U.S. history to face criminal charges after leaving office.

The New York Times, citing “people with knowledge of the matter,” reported that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) is attempting to resuscitate the same investigation. The Department of Justice convicted Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen on similar campaign finance violations and alleged that committed that offense at Trump’s direction, but federal prosecutors never charged Trump with that crime. Bragg’s predecessor Cyrus Vance (D) didn’t, either.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tweeted Saturday that he would direct relevant committees to immediately investigate if federal funds were being used to “subvert our democracy by interfering in elections with politically motivated prosecutions.”

“Here we go again — an outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA who lets violent criminals walk as he pursues political vengeance against President Trump,” he tweeted.

Law&Crime host Linda Kenney Baden, a veteran criminal defense lawyer not linked to the case, predicted that Trump would have free hands if made to enter the criminal court.

“In NYC, this is not going going to be a Harvey Weinstein in cuffs photo op perp walk through the front of the courthouse with detectives on each side,” she said. “The former president will be taken in a back, secure way to a courtroom and arraigned publicly.”

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."