Aggravated assault in Tennessee is, essentially, the intentional committing of an assault that causes serious bodily injury, causes death, or involves the use of a deadly weapon. Aggravated assault can also include strangulation, the failure of a parent to protect a child from an aggravated assault, and other definitions.
Aggravated assault is defined in the Tennessee statutes TN Code § 39-13-102 (2019). Aggravated assault is generally a Class C or Class D felony, depending on the circumstances. The penalties for a misdemeanor are up to 11 months and 29 days and/or a $2,500 fine. The penalties for the felonies can range from 2 to 15 years and up to $10,000 – depending on the class of the felony. Additional sentencing factors include the status of the victim such as a police officer or a family member.
What other penalties can come from an aggravated assault conviction?
While many people are focused on the fines and jail time, there can be a number of long-term repercussions associated with a conviction for aggravated assault. Convictions may affect your ability to find employment, as “ban the box” laws apply only to state employers. This means that when an employer runs a background check, your record could factor into whether or not you are hired. Some positions may specifically mandate that anyone with a history of violence be denied employment. You could also lose your professional license, your security clearance, and/or your right to carry a firearm.
Criminal convictions may also affect your educational opportunities by rendering you ineligible for student aid, or denying you a place to live on campus. You may find it more difficult to obtain government benefits, too. Finally, an aggravated assault conviction may cost you your right to vote or run for office.
Possible defenses in aggravated assault cases
In all criminal cases, including aggravated assault, the burden is on the prosecution to prove each part of the criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant is presumed innocent. Evidence, such as a confession or the seizure of physical evidence, may be excluded if it was obtained in violation of your criminal rights.
Some of the defenses that may apply in aggravated assault cases include:
- Self-defense. It’s generally legal to protect yourself (and others) from physical harm – provided the force you use to defend yourself is proportional to the attack. Generally, self-defense is a valid defense if the assault was necessary to avoid imminent harm. If you voluntarily get into a fight with someone and that person is hurt – that type of assault is usually – not necessary. You can be charged with aggravated assault for agreeing to a fight.
- The police have the wrong person. You have the right, when warranted, to say that you’re not the person involved in the incident. If the accusation is false, you have the right to say the accusation against you is false.
- There was no intent. If you seriously hurt someone but it was an accident (you didn’t intend to hurt them), then you should be held accountable for negligence – but not for aggravated assault.
- There was no assault. You have the right to challenge whether the person filing the charges against you was actually hurt or placed in danger.
Pleading down a charge of aggravated assault in Tennessee
In cases where an aggravated assault charge cannot be dismissed, our attorneys may look to have it reduced to simple assault. A simple assault charge is generally a Class A or Class B misdemeanor. Not only is the punishment less severe – the fines and jail times are lower, and in some cases you may be able to avoid jail completely – but you won’t lose as many rights.
Additional options for aggravated assault charges
If these defense options cannot be used, there are still options to reduce the severity of the penalties for an aggravated assault conviction. First time offenders with no previous convictions that result in jail time could receive a judicial diversion. In these cases, the judge will postpone sentencing for a set period of time, during which the offender may be required to complete probation, counseling, and/or community service. If the offender does not get into any trouble with the law during the set time period, then the judge could dismiss the charges altogether.
In other cases, the court may suspend sentencing. This means that instead of going to prison, the offender must serve his or her time in probation. A person with a suspended sentence still has a criminal conviction, however, and will still risk losing any and/or all rights that he or she would have lost for a felony conviction; it just means the person won’t be incarcerated.
At the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates, our experienced criminal defense lawyers in Franklin have been aggressively fighting for defendants for 30 years. We work to obtain dismissals before trial and acquittals after a trial. We often are able to negotiate plea reductions or alternative sentences. We represent clients who have been charged with felonies and misdemeanors. To schedule an appointment, please call our office at 615-977-9370 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment. We maintain locations in Franklin, Columbia, and Brentwood.