Your Guide to Assault & Battery Laws in Tennessee

Assault and battery laws can be challenging to understand. If you or someone you know was recently charged with an assault or battery, understanding how these kinds of charges work in TN can help you pursue a more favorable outcome in court.

Today, we're shedding light on how assault and battery laws work in TN and the process for navigating an assault or battery charge in our state.

Assault & Battery—What's the Difference?

Technically, there isn't one. At least, not anymore—but that's over-simplifying things a little.

Assault and battery charges used to have different definitions. To keep it short and sweet, you can commit an assault without actually hurting someone. As long as the other person has a "reasonable fear of imminent bodily injury" due to actions you've taken, you've technically committed assault.

Battery used to be defined as the act of "intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to another."

In essence, if you said to someone, "I'm going to throw boiling coffee in your face" while holding a pot of boiling coffee, you could be charged with assault. If you actually followed through and did throw the coffee in that person's face, you could be charged with battery.

However, lawmakers eventually realized that separating assault and battery charges was effectively useless (although many people still falsely assume the two are separate crimes with different penalties). What used to be defined as battery now shares a definition with assault under section 39-13-101 of Tennessee Code.

Are There Different Kinds of Assault?

Yes. There are three basic kinds of assault:

  • Assault. Tennessee Code section 39-13-101 defines assault as:
    • "Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to another;
    • Intentionally or knowingly causing another to reasonably fear imminent bodily injury; or
    • Intentionally or knowingly causing physical contact with another and a reasonable person would regard the contact as extremely offensive or provocative."
  • Intentional aggravated assault, defined under section 39-13-102 as the following acts (in addition to meeting the above definition for assault):
    • "Serious bodily injury to another;
    • The death of another;
    • The use or display of a deadly weapon; or
    • Involved strangulation or attempted strangulation."
  • And finally, reckless aggravated assault, defined as committing any one of the following acts in a reckless manner:
    • "Serious bodily injury to another;
    • The death of another; or
    • The use or display of a deadly weapon."

What Are the Penalties for Assault in Tennessee?

Standard assault (often charged as the intent to cause bodily harm) is typically classified as a Class A misdemeanor and is punishable by up to a year in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,500. However, a standard assault can curry harsher penalties (such as classification as a Class B misdemeanor or a fine up to $15,000) if it's carried out in an offensive or provocative manner, or against a healthcare or law enforcement professional.

Intentional aggravated assault is a Class C felony, punishable by 3-15 years in prison. Reckless assault is a Class D felony, punishable by 2-12 years in prison.

If you're facing assault charges, you need a criminal defense lawyer you can trust at your side.

To schedule a consultation with an experienced assault & battery attorney, contact our office online or via phone at }.

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