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Simple vs. Aggravated Assault in Tennessee

author-thumbnail Grover Collins

BY Grover Collins

Founder & Managing Member

Understand the differences between simple assault and aggravated assault, as well as the associated penalties. For more information, read our blog or contact our Nashville criminal defense attorney at Collins Legal today.

In Tennessee, there are two main types of assault crimes: simple assault and aggravated assault. However, there are major difference between the two including the severity of injury inflicted on the victim.

Definition of Simple Assault & Aggravated Assault

Simple assault is defined as:

  • knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly causing bodily injury to someone else,
  • causing an individual to have a reasonable fear of imminent harm,
  • or physical contact considered extremely provocative or offensive.

On the other hand, aggravated assault is defined as:

  • knowingly, intentionally, or reckless causing “serious” physical harm to another individual,
  • attempts to cause physical injury by strangulation,
  • or intentionally causing physical injury to a public employee or transit system working while the person is performing his or her duties.
  • If a parent or guardian of a child or guardian of an adult fails or refuses to protect the child or adult from aggravated assault or child abuse, then they can be charged with aggravated assault. If a deadly weapon is used while committing simple assault, then it is considered aggravated assault.

In addition, simple assault involves only minor injury like scrapes, cuts, or bruises. Rather, aggravated assault commonly involves significant harm, such as a broken bones or an injury where surgery or hospitalization is required.


Class A Misdemeanor:

  • When a person commits simple assault that results in bodily injury or the threat of immediate bodily harm.
  • Aggravated assault against a public employee or transit worker is a Class A misdemeanor.

Class B Misdemeanor:

  • Physical contact that is provocative or offensive.


  • Aggravated assault is a Class C felony.
  • However, if it involves recklessness, it is a Class D felony.
  • If it involves the failure to protect a child or adult from aggravated harm or abuse, it is classified as a Class C felony.



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