Tennessee, like most states, makes it a crime for one person to touch or strike someone else to cause them harm. Physical contact intended to harm and to offend typically falls under the umbrella of assault.
Assault statutes are even broader than prohibitions on physical violence. In Tennessee, someone can also face charges for threatening words or body language that creates a fear of imminent bodily harm.
Most people accused of assault will face simple assault charges. Simple assault is usually a misdemeanor. However, sometimes prosecutors pursue aggravated assault charges when the circumstances are more severe. Aggravated assault is a felony charge that could carry up to 15 years in prison if the assault was intentional. What turns simple assault into aggravated assault?
Aggravated assault may involve malicious intent
In simple assault cases, it is the perspective of the victim that matters. Their fear is more significant than the intent of the perpetrator. However, when it comes to aggravated assault, the intent of the person accused is a significant consideration.
Specifically, intentional aggravated assault usually requires that the person accused intended to cause serious bodily harm to the other person. Even if they did not cause permanent injury, the intent to do so could be enough for aggravated charges. They committed an act of violence that could cause serious bodily injury or death. Strangulation is an example of intentional aggravated assault specifically mentioned in the Tennessee assault law.
Aggravated assault often involves a deadly weapon
Physical injury isn’t necessary for an incident to qualify as aggravated assault. The use of a weapon to threaten or coerce someone can be sufficient grounds for an aggravated assault charge. Even if the person accused never used the weapon or caused physical injury to the other person or people involved, the display of the weapon is enough to increase the charges.
People can also face aggravated assault charges without the presence of a weapon or intent to hurt others under the reckless aggravated assault law. When compared with simple assault, aggravated assault is obviously a more concerning charge to have on your criminal record. It could also carry more significant penalties, which is why understanding the assault charges against you is often an important step in defending yourself.