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What Is Defined as "Aggravated" Assault?

A charge of aggravated assault could lead to significant years in jail and exorbitant fines, especially in circumstances that involve law enforcement, family, or firearms. In today’s blog, we discuss what constitutes an aggravated assault, the increased penalties for such a charge, and those considered special victims who could lead to severer sentencing.

What Constitutes an “Aggravated” Assault or Battery?

Before going into the definition of an “aggravated” assault, it is important to first recall what constitutes simple assault. Simple assault is an attempt to cause physical injury to another person – for instance, attempting to strike someone with a hand or object and missing. Assault is also any intentional act or threat of action that reasonably causes another person to feel afraid of impending violence.

Aggravated assault, then, occurs when a person:

  • intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes serious physical injury to another person;
  • intentionally or knowingly attempts to cause physical injury by strangulation;
  • is a parent or guardian of a child or a guardian of an adult and fails or refuses to protect them from an aggravated assault or aggravated child abuse;
  • intentionally or knowingly causes or attempts to cause bodily injury to another; or
  • intentionally causes physical injury to a public employee or transit system worker while the person is performing his duties.

Note that the offender does not need to have touched the victim or inflicted an actual injury to be charged with aggravated assault. Rather, aggravated assault merely needs to put a reasonable person in fear of an imminent violent touching of their person. That is, the attempt alone is enough to warrant a case of aggravated assault. For example, wielding a gun at someone is considered aggravated assault.

In aggravated assault cases in Tennessee, the State has the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that the prosecution must show:

  • a demonstration of violence along with the present ability to inflict harm by violence, and
  • the alleged victim was in reasonable fear of an imminent act of violence.

Evidence that supports the burden of proof could be the presence of weapons such as knives, guns, and clubs, and in some cases even hands, fists, or feet (in shoes/boots). The key with these “weapons” is their present ability to inflict harm or fear by violence.

Note that for aggravated assault to occur, the victim must be conscious and aware of the threat. So, if the victim consented to be touched or for the act to be committed, their consent can be used as a defense for the accused.

Penalties for Aggravated Assault

A person convicted of an aggravated assault faces a Class C felony punishable by a combination of the following:

  • 3 to 15 years in prison;
  • a fine up to $10,000; and
  • restitution.

A conviction for aggravated assault as a result of reckless conduct (i.e. not necessarily with intent to harm another but without regard for the outcome),is a Class D Felony and may result in some or all of the following penalties:

  • 2 to 12 years in prison;
  • a probationary period;
  • a fine of up to $5,000; and
  • court costs.

The minimum prison sentence and fines can increase if the aggravated assault involves:

  • a correctional guard or law enforcement officer;
  • a family member;
  • an intimate partner;
  • discharging a firearm from a vehicle.

Defend Against Aggravated Assault Charges

If you are facing an aggravated assault charge, some common defense tactics you could consider are:

  • innocence;
  • lack of intent;
  • self-defense;
  • defense of others;
  • defense of property;
  • object involved was not a deadly weapon;
  • consent of the alleged victim.

Aggravated assault is not a charge to be handled lightly. Let a team of knowledgeable and experienced lawyers defend your case. The legal team at Eldridge and Cravens, PC can efficiently assess your case and determine next steps in your defense against aggravated assault charges. Whether fighting for mitigated or dismissal of charges, our firm will fight for your justice and your rights.

Contact Eldridge and Cravens, PC today to schedule your free initial consultation.