Simple Assault v. Aggravated Assault

When the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation put together its last report, they discovered that 57% of all crimes in Tennessee are committed against property. Theft and fraud top the list, though vandalism and arson make appearances as well. But from an individual standpoint, there were more cases of assault and aggravated assault than any other crime – nearly 100,000.

The differences between assault and aggravated assault are small, but the differences in penalties are not. That’s because in Tennessee, simple assault is a misdemeanor, whereas aggravated assault is a felony. What you’re charged with could determine whether you got to jail or prison if convicted.

Simple Assault: Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-101

To be charged with assault, a person must:

  • Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another;
  • Intentionally or knowingly causes another to reasonably fear imminent bodily injury; or
  • Intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another and a reasonable person would regard the contact as extremely offensive or provocative.

It is important to note that you don’t actually have to touch another person to be charged with assault; you must only have caused another person to “reasonably fear imminent bodily injury.” If you appear threatening, or if you physically or verbally threaten to harm another person, you could face a simple assault charge. If convicted, you’ll face thousands of dollars in fines and up to a year in jail.

Aggravated Assault: Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-102

This is a far more serious offense. To be charged with aggravated assault in Tennessee, a person must have committed an assaultive act which:

  • Results in serious bodily injury to another;
  • Results in the death of another;
  • Involved the use or display of a deadly weapon; or
  • Was intended to cause bodily injury to another by strangulation or bodily injury by strangulation was attempted.

Note that the mere display of a deadly weapon is enough for an upgraded charge. Thus, if you are involved in a physical altercation and you have a gun on you, even if you don’t use or brandish your weapon, merely having the gun on display is enough for an aggravated assault charge. Because aggravated assault is a felony charge, you could face anywhere between 2 and 15 years in prison, depending on the circumstances of the act.

Assault charges are serious in all cases. Consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney about your options.