Tennessee Criminal Defense

What Is the Difference Between Simple and Aggravated Assault?

There are many misconceptions surrounding the legal topic of assault and the offense’s frequent inclusion in mainstream media may only be adding to the problem. The truth is that what constitutes assault can differ from state to state and if your education on the topic comes mainly from Hollywood movies and TV shows, our blog can help to set the record straight. Did you know, for example, that physical contact may not need to occur for an accusation to be made? In Tennessee, assault charges are generally broken down into two categories based on the severity of the crimes: simple assault and aggravated assault.


According to Tenn. Code Ann. §39-13-101, simple assault can occur when a person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly (1) physically injures another person, (2) causes a person to fear for their immediate safety, or (3) physically engages another person in an extremely offensive or provoking manner. However, a classification as simple assault also depends on the severity of injuries that were inflicted or threatened. The offense is typically reserved for minor injuries such as cuts and bruises.

Potential penalties for simple assault include:

  • If bodily injury occurs or the victim is threatened with physical violence, the crime can be charged as a Class A misdemeanor punishable by more than 11 months in jail and a fine of $2,500.
  • If a defendant engages in physical contact that is offensive or provocative, the crime can be charged as a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of $500.


Aggravated assault typically refers to cases where serious bodily harm occurred or a deadly weapon was used during the course of a simple assault. Serious injuries can include broken bones, head trauma causing memory loss, damage to the spinal cord, or any injury that requires hospitalization. While aggravated assault is typically charged as a felony, numerous factors can affect the potential penalties for an offense.

Punishments for aggravated assault can include:

  • Offenses involving serious bodily injury caused by intentional acts of violence can be charged as a Class C felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
  • If the injury was caused by the defendant’s reckless behavior, the offense may be charged as a Class D felony punishable by up to 12 years in prison and $5000 in fines.

In practice, no two cases will ever truly be the same and questions regarding a specific offense should be directed to a knowledgeable attorney.


If you have been accused of simple or aggravated assault, contact Crain & Flatt Attorneys at Law as soon as possible. We believe that client education is a vital factor in effective representation and our Murfreesboro criminal defense attorney can help you to understand the nature of the charges against you. We know that being thrust into the criminal justice system can be stressful, confusing, and frustrating. However, you do not have to go through the process alone and our lead attorney is only a phone call away.

Do you have questions about your legal options? Request a free case evaluation to get the answers you need.