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Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event Thursday, April 27, 2023, in Manchester, N.H. (AP) Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event Thursday, April 27, 2023, in Manchester, N.H. (AP)

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event Thursday, April 27, 2023, in Manchester, N.H. (AP)

Loreben Tuquero
By Loreben Tuquero May 12, 2023

If Your Time is short

  • Question: After a jury verdict in the E. Jean Carroll case, will Donald Trump be required to register as a sex offender in New York? 

  • Answer: Trump has no duty to register as a sex offender. The Carroll case was civil, not criminal.

A jury found former President Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing writer E. Jean Carroll at a New York department store almost three decades ago and also found that Trump defamed her.

The jury was split on whether Trump was liable for raping Carroll, but awarded her a $5 million judgment. Trump plans to appeal the verdict, his lawyer said.

Because the case is civil, not criminal, Trump will not be facing prison time. 

But some social media users wondered whether Trump, the most prominent 2024 candidate among Republicans, would have to take another legal step: registering as a sex offender.

Facebook posts by the group Occupy Democrats suggest that Trump should register as a sex offender, saying "no one is above the law."

But that’s not what New York law says for civil cases.

Carroll sued Trump after the state of New York passed the Adult Survivors Act, giving adult survivors of sexual assault a one-year window to file lawsuits against their attackers, regardless of when the abuse occurred.

Under the state’s guidelines, someone convicted of a sex offense must register as a sex offender upon returning to the community after a probation, payment of a fine, jail or prison sentence. These laws are common across the U.S.

But Trump did not face criminal charges, so these laws do not apply in his case. 

He was found liable, not convicted, of sexual abuse. So, the sex registry law doesn’t apply and he has no duty to register as a sex offender.

The standard of burden of proof in a civil case is by "preponderance of the evidence," a lower standard than in a criminal case, which requires proof "beyond a reasonable doubt." 

To prove something by "preponderance of the evidence" means that someone must convince the jury that it is more likely than not that the defendant is responsible for the harm suffered by the plaintiff.

"The distinction is critical, because the standard of proof required for a criminal conviction is much higher than that for a civil judgment, like Carroll’s," said Maggie Gardner, professor of civil procedure at Cornell Law School. 

Gardner added that there are more procedural and constitutional safeguards for criminal defendants, and more limitations on what evidence can be admitted in criminal trials. 

"It is important that the registration of sex offenders is limited to those criminally convicted because having to register carries significant limitations on one’s liberty," she said.

Read more Ask PolitiFact stories.

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Our Sources

Facebook post, May 10, 2023

Facebook post, May 11, 2023

PolitiFact, ‘No idea who this woman is’: Looking at Trump’s familiar defense in light of E. Jean Carroll case, May 10, 2023

New York Sex Offender Registration Act

New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, Frequently Asked Questions: New York State’s Sex Offender Registry, accessed May 11, 2023

Associated Press, Jury finds Trump liable for sexual abuse, awards accuser $5M, May 9, 2023

The New York Times, A civil trial differs in key respects from a criminal case., May 9, 2023

Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute, civil liability, accessed May 11, 2023

United States Courts, Civil Cases, accessed May 11, 2023

New York State Senate, Senate Bill S66A

New York State, Governor Hochul Signs Adult Survivors Act, May 24, 2022

Email interview, Kevin Clermont, Robert D. Ziff Professor of Law at Cornell Law School, May 12, 2023

Email and phone interview, Maggie Gardner, professor of law at Cornell Law School, May 12, 2023

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More by Loreben Tuquero

Ask PolitiFact: Will Donald Trump need to register as a sex offender?