According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, in 2018 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), there were 81,416 cases of assault throughout the state, and another 32,105 cases of aggravated assault.

Most people would think that assault involves some sort of physical contact, but under Tennessee law, just putting someone in fear of bodily harm through your words and actions can constitute assault.

If you are in the Chattanooga area, or nearby in Red Bank, East Ridge, or Soddy-Daisy, and have been charged with or are under investigation for assault, contact me at the Law Offices of Fisher Wise. I am an experienced, knowledgeable, and dedicated criminal defense attorney who will protect your rights and strategize a strong defense for you.

What Is Assault Under Tennessee Law?

Most people probably picture assault as a vicious fight ending with a bloody victim or two, but that’s not always the case. You get into an argument in a bar, or even in a parking lot for that matter, and pretty soon emotions rise and tempers flare up. You may just be defending yourself, and suddenly you’re facing assault charges.

That’s the thing with assault. Most instances of assault arise from disagreements or arguments that get out of hand, and as mentioned earlier, no blood necessarily needs to be shed. If the other person has a “reasonable fear” of physical harm, or you have physical contact that is “offensive or provocative,” you may be charged with assault.



Simple vs. Aggravated Assault

Section 39-13-101 of the Tennessee Code defines assault, and Section 39-13-102 defines aggravated assault.

A person commits assault when they:

  • Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause bodily injury to another

  • Intentionally or knowingly cause another to reasonably fear imminent bodily injury

  • Intentionally or knowingly cause physical contact with another and a reasonable person would regard the contact as extremely offensive or provocative

Aggravated assault, in contrast, is broken into two categories — intentional and reckless.

Intentional aggravated assault can be charged when someone intentionally or knowingly commits assault involving one or more of the following:

  • Serious bodily injury

  • The death of another person

  • The use or display of deadly weapons

  • Strangulation or attempted strangulation

Reckless aggravated assault involves the following:

  • Serious bodily injury

  • The death of another person

  • The use or display of deadly weapons

Deadly weapons by Tennessee definition include knives and firearms, but also “anything that in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.” Therefore, tire irons, baseball bats, or ropes (to strangle) can be considered deadly.

Note also that a parent or guardian of a child or guardian of an adult who fails or refuses to protect the child or adult from aggravated assault or child abuse can be charged with aggravated assault as well.

Definition of Serious Bodily Injury

Under Tennessee law, minor injuries include bruises, cuts, scrapes, sprains, and strains. Serious bodily injury refers to more significant results, such as:

  • Broken bones

  • Lost limbs

  • Disfigurement

  • Injuries that require surgery

  • Any injury that can or does lead to death

Penalties for Assault and Aggravated Assault

Simple assault is generally considered a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and/or fines of up to $2,500. A physical contact assault can be considered a Class B misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500 and the possibility of six months in jail.

Aggravated assault charges generally fall into two categories: Class C felony and Class D felony, depending on whether the assault was intentional or reckless.

  • Class C Felony: The act was intentional or the accused failed to protect a child or disabled adult, resulting in a penalty of imprisonment for three to 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

  • Class D Felony: The act was reckless, resulting in a penalty of two to 12 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.

In addition, if convicted of aggravated assault, you will have to pay restitution to the victim for medical expenses, lost income, property damage, counseling services, and possibly other damages.

Hire an Attorney Immediately

If you’re under suspicion or have been charged with any type of assault, you are going to need the best defense you can find. The sooner you involve an experienced criminal defense attorney, the better your odds at obtaining a favorable result, whether it be through dropped charges, acquittal, or pleading down to a lesser charge.


As your legal counsel, I will work with you to develop the best possible defense strategy. I will represent you every step of the way and fight vigorously for your rights. At the Law Offices of Fisher Wise, I proudly represent clients throughout Chattanooga, East Ridge, Red Bank, Soddy-Daisy, Bradley County, Bledsoe County, Hamilton County, Marion County, Sequatchie County, and Rhea County Tennessee. Call me today.