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November 11, 2010

What distinguishes a simple assault from an aggravated assault in Tennessee?

The Difference Between Assault and Aggravated Assault

The biggest difference between simple assault and aggravated assault is that simple assault and domestic assault (when a domestic relationship is involved) are both treated as misdemeanors and are punishable by 11 months and 29 days, while aggravated assault is a felony that carries a sentence of up to 6 years.

Whether one is convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor will generally depend on whether a deadly weapon is involved and or the degree of the injury to the victim.

What is a Simple Assault?

An assault that occurs when a person:

  1. Injures someone
  2. Causes someone to fear imminent bodily injury
  3. Causes contact that would be considered extremely offensive or provocative. T.C.A. § 39-13- 101.

What is Aggravated Assault?

An Aggravated Assault is a regular assault that has one or more of the following additional factors:

  1. Serious bodily injury
  2. Death
  3. A deadly weapon
  4. Strangulation. T.C.A. § 39-13- 102.

Aggravated Assault could be seriously injuring someone, or using a firearm to put them in fear of being shot (even if you haven’t actually pulled the trigger).

What is serious bodily injury?

There is a grey area in the law as to what exactly constitutes “serious bodily injury.” For example, one case held that a broken nose is not enough to rise to “serious” injury. State v. Sims, 909 S.W.2d 46, 49 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1995).

However, in State v. Demond Lamont Adkins, the court found that evidence of permanent impairment in the victim’s knee and back was sufficient. 2008 WL 5100851 (Tenn. Crim. App. Dec. 4, 2008).

What is Domestic Assault?

Domestic Assault is a special version of Simple Assault, which has the added component that the defendant and victim are in a “domestic relationship.”

Domestic Assault is still a misdemeanor, but has the extra consequence of restricting firearm rights upon conviction (as if it was a felony).

Domestic Assault cases are also often handled differently in court. There is technically no difference when an Aggravated Assault involves a domestic relationship, but again the case will often be handled differently for courts that have a separate domestic violence court.

Answers to Common Questions about Assault

Take a look at our FAQ page for answers to other frequently asked criminal law questions.

If you have been arrested on assault charges (domestic, simple, or aggravated) in Middle Tennessee, it’s important to speak to a criminal defense attorney immediately. Contact the law firm of Raybin & Weissman for a free consultation today.

Additional Criminal Defense Resources

What You Need to Know When Charged With Domestic Violence

Nashville Assault Defense Attorneys

Nashville Criminal Defense Attorneys