How To Beat Aggravated Assault Charges in Tennessee

Barnes & Fersten Law Firm

Barnes & Fersten Law Firm

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Aggravated assault in Tennessee is a serious criminal offense that can redefine your life. The implications of a conviction are severe, with potential consequences affecting one’s freedom, reputation, and future opportunities. However, it’s important to remember that being charged does not equate to being guilty. The United States legal system is built on the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and every defendant has the right to a fair trial and legal representation.

This blog aims to provide an informative guide on aggravated assault charges in Tennessee. We’ll explore the legal definitions, potential defenses, and strategies that experienced defense attorneys may employ to challenge such charges. Whether you or a loved one are currently facing these charges, understanding your legal rights and the avenues available for defense is the first step towards striving for a favorable outcome.

Understanding Aggravated Assault in Tennessee

Aggravated assault in Tennessee involves situations where the accused has either caused serious bodily injury to another person or used a deadly weapon during the assault. Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) § 39-13-102 distinguishes aggravated assault from lesser assault charges by the severity of the harm or the threat posed during the incident.

What Makes an Assault “Aggravated”?

In Tennessee, a simple assault charge escalates to aggravated assault for several reasons, including:

  • Serious Bodily Injury: The injury caused is not just minor or superficial; it is severe and has significant health implications for the victim.
  • Use of a Deadly Weapon: Whether it’s a gun, knife, or another object capable of causing death or serious injury, its use or threat of use during an assault constitutes an aggravated assault.
  • Strangulation: This act, involving the intentional restriction of someone’s breathing or circulation by applying pressure on the throat or neck, or blocking the nose or mouth, can lead to an aggravated assault charge.
  • Intent to Kill: If the assailant intended to cause death or knew their actions could lead to death, the assault becomes aggravated.
  • Special Victims: Assaults against certain individuals, like law enforcement officers or emergency responders, automatically elevate the severity of the charge.

Is Aggravated Assault A Felony in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, aggravated assault is classified as either a Class C or Class D felony depending on the specific factors related to the nature of the assault, the intent behind it, and the consequences for the victim. Here’s a breakdown of when aggravated assault is considered a Class C or Class D felony:

Class C Felony Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault is classified as a Class C felony under circumstances entailing:

  • Intentional or Knowing Conduct: When the perpetrator intentionally or knowingly causes serious bodily injury to another person. This means there’s a clear intent to cause harm that results in serious injury.
  • Intentional Use of a Deadly Weapon: Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon escalates the charge to a C felony. The presence and use of a deadly weapon under these conditions signify a higher degree of danger and intent.
  • Strangulation: This classification is due to the inherently dangerous nature of strangulation, which can quickly lead to serious bodily injury or even death. The law reflects an understanding that strangulation is an act that not only physically harms but also instills a fear of serious injury or death in the victim.

Class C felony aggravated assault can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment for a term of 3 to 15 years and fines of up to $10,000.

Class D Felony Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault is considered a Class D felony in situations involving:

  • Reckless Conduct: When the assault results from reckless behavior that causes serious bodily injury to another person. Recklessness here means acting with a disregard for the safety of others, leading to serious injury.
  • Reckless Use of a Deadly Weapon: When an individual recklessly causes someone to fear imminent bodily injury through the display or employment of a deadly weapon. This category focuses on reckless, rather than intentional, use of a weapon to instill fear.

Conviction for a Class D felony aggravated assault carries penalties of 2 to 12 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.

Legal Strategies to Beat Aggravated Assault Charges

Even a first time aggravated assault charge is a serious allegation. It is essential to have a thorough understanding of what you are up against and the potential defenses for your case.


Self-defense is a fundamental right, anchored in the principle that individuals are entitled to protect themselves from imminent harm. A critical aspect of arguing self-defense is proving that any reasonable person in the same scenario would have felt the need to respond defensively and that the response was appropriate to the level of threat. It must be shown that the accused didn’t initiate the conflict but was acting purely out of necessity to protect themselves, avoiding any unnecessary escalation.

Defense of Others

The defense of others mirrors the principles of self-defense, extending the right to act in defense of another individual perceived to be in immediate danger. The accused must demonstrate that they had a genuine belief that another person was in direct danger and that stepping in was necessary to prevent that harm, using only as much force as needed. The aim is to show that the intervention was a necessary measure to safeguard another individual.

False Accusations

Defending against false accusations involves challenging the validity of the charges head-on, arguing that the accusations are entirely without basis or were made with hidden motives. This defense requires a deep dive into the accuser’s reasons and scrutinizing the evidence or lack thereof. Employing expert witnesses to question the evidence’s validity or pointing out the absence of direct proof can shift the narrative in favor of the accused, potentially leading to the dismissal of the charges.

Mistaken Identity

Mistaken identity defense comes into play when someone is incorrectly identified as the offender. This is particularly relevant when evidence placing the accused at the crime scene is weak or relies heavily on unreliable witness accounts. Using alibis, digital evidence, or surveillance footage to prove the accused was elsewhere at the time of the incident is a strong strategy to refute the charges.

Insufficient Evidence

Questioning the sufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence focuses on exposing flaws in their case. This strategy hinges on demonstrating that the evidence presented does not meet the high standard required for a conviction, emphasizing any discrepancies or gaps in the prosecution’s narrative. Since the law requires guilt to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, highlighting the insufficiency of evidence aims to show reasonable doubt exists, with the aim of the charges to be reduced or dismissed.

Steps to Take if You're Charged with Aggravated Assault in Tennessee

Being charged with aggravated assault in Tennessee is a serious situation that requires immediate and careful action. The steps you take following your charge can significantly impact the outcome of your case:

Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent

The moment you’re arrested or charged, it’s crucial to exercise your right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in court. Politely inform law enforcement officers that you wish to speak with an attorney before answering any questions. This helps prevent any unintentional self-incrimination.

Secure Legal Representation Immediately

Contacting a skilled defense attorney should be your next step. An experienced lawyer who specializes in criminal defense and understands Tennessee’s legal system will be your best ally. They can offer guidance, protect your rights, and begin crafting a defense strategy tailored to your case.

Follow All Pretrial Conditions and Court Orders

If you’re released on bail, it’s imperative to follow all conditions set by the court. This might include restrictions on travel, communication with the alleged victim, or engaging in certain activities. Violating these conditions can worsen your situation and negatively affect your case.

Document Everything and Gather Evidence

Start compiling any evidence that might support your defense, including photographs, messages, emails, or documents. Additionally, write down everything you remember about the incident, including dates, times, locations, and potential witnesses. This information can be invaluable to your attorney in building your defense.

Avoid Discussing Your Case

Be cautious about whom you discuss your case with. Conversations with friends or family about your charges are not protected and could potentially be used as evidence. The only person you should openly discuss your case with is your attorney, as this communication is protected by attorney-client privilege.

Prepare for Your Defense

Work closely with your attorney to prepare your defense. This may involve attending meetings, reviewing evidence, and possibly participating in a defense investigation. Your active involvement can provide your attorney with additional insights and information critical to your defense.

Stay Informed and Engaged

Stay informed about the legal process and remain engaged with your defense. Understanding the steps involved and what’s expected of you can help reduce anxiety and make the process more manageable. Your attorney can provide you with resources and information to help you understand the proceedings

By following these steps, you can take proactive measures to protect your rights and work toward a favorable outcome in your aggravated assault case in Tennessee.

Barnes & Fersten’s Criminal Defense Attorneys in Knoxville Can Help

If you or someone you know is facing aggravated assault charges, the time to act is now. Reach out to Barnes & Fersten’s criminal defense attorneys for a consultation. Our approach is personalized, ensuring that every strategy is tailored to the specifics of your case, maximizing your chances of a favorable outcome. Whether it’s negotiating for reduced charges, challenging evidence, or representing you at trial, our goal is to stand by your side, providing expert legal counsel and unwavering support.

Let us help you navigate this challenging time with confidence and competence. Contact us today to take the first step towards protecting your future.

Attorney At Law, Managing Partner

Brandon D. Fersten is an esteemed Knoxville attorney practicing DUIcriminal defense, and juvenile law. Known for his empathetic approach and commitment to his clients, he brings a record of favorable case outcomes including dismissals and not guilty verdicts at jury trials resulting in Brandon being recognized as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” in Criminal Defense, U.S. News’ Best Lawyers: “Ones to Watch,” and Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars”. Brandon’s professional accolades, combined with his passion for justice, position him as a reliable criminal defense advocate in the East Tennessee legal landscape.