BARNES & Fersten vehicular assault Lawyers

Award Winning Client Service, Proven Results



Attorney John Barnes, Attorney Brandon D. Fersten, and Attorney Oscar Butler

Knoxville Aggravated Vehicular Assault Attorneys


In Tennessee, vehicular assault is a criminal offense that occurs when a person operates a vehicle in a reckless or negligent manner and causes serious bodily injury to another person. This crime is governed by the state’s criminal code, specifically Tennessee Code Annotated (T.C.A.) § 39-13-106.

Under T.C.A. § 39-13-106, vehicular assault is defined as the knowing or intentional operation of a vehicle in a reckless manner that causes serious bodily injury to another person. A person can also be charged with vehicular assault if they operate a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol and cause serious bodily injury to another person.

Punishment for Vehicular Assault

The penalty for vehicular assault can vary depending on the circumstances of the case. A conviction for vehicular assault can result in a prison sentence of 2 to 12 years depending on your criminal history, as well as fines, probation, and community service.

Vehicular assault is a Class D Felony punishable by 2 to 4 years for individuals who are considered a Range I Offender. Additionally, a conviction for vehicular assault can result in the revocation of the person’s driver’s license.

In addition to the prosecution bringing charges of vehicular assault, the prosecution will usually bring additional charges such as DUI, and/or reckless driving. However, it is crucial that you have a team of DUI and criminal defense attorneys who will work endlessly at fighting these charges and protecting your rights in an endeavor to avoid you becoming a lifelong felon. An experienced attorney can help you understand the charges against you, the possible penalties you may face, and the best defense strategies for your case. An attorney can also help you navigate the legal process, negotiate with the prosecution, and represent you in court.

Person holding their injured knee in a wrap

What is a "serious bodily injury"

It is important to note that in Tennessee, the term “serious bodily injury” is defined by T.C.A. § 39-11-106 as an injury that involves either: (1) a substantial risk of death; (2) protracted unconsciousness; (3) extreme physical pain; (4) protracted or obvious disfigurement; (5) protracted loss or substantial impairment of a function of a bodily member, organ or mental faculty; or (6) a broken bone of a child who is twelve (12) years of age or less. It is important that your attorney does not automatically assume because there was hospital records/bills of the alleged victim and you were charged with vehicular assault that there was a serious bodily injury.

The Tennessee Supreme Court and Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals cases have given considerable guidelines in determining the difference between a serious bodily injury and a bodily injury. In short, a serious bodily injury needs to be significant to where there was a substantial risk of death, not simply because of the manner of the accident, but from the actual injuries suffered. Tennessee Courts for example have held that the alleged “extreme physical pain” of a broken nose is not sufficient to constitute a serious bodily injury.

How can a vehicular assault attorney fight for me?

At Barnes & Fersten, we understand the serious nature of vehicular assault charges and we are dedicated to defending clients who have been accused of this crime. We will work tirelessly to build the strongest defense possible, and we will fight to protect your rights and your freedom. 

Diversion Eligible

Significantly, although a DUI is not eligible for judicial diversion or expungement from your record, a vehicular assault is eligible for judicial diversion which would allow it to be expunged upon successful completion of probation under the judicial diversion. This means that your lawyer may potentially negotiate with the DA’s Office or request the judge at sentencing if an agreement is not reached to allow you to use a judicial diversion. Depending on your criminal history, you may or may not be eligible for diversion.

However, if you are eligible, a judicial diversion would allow your charge to be dismissed at the end of the probationary period upon the successful completion of diversion then your lawyer would file for the dismissed charge to be expunged from your record as if you never pled guilty.

Potential Defenses: To be convicted of vehicular assault, the State must establish that the accident that resulted in serious bodily injuries was caused by your impairment. If the incident was an accident and not the result of reckless or negligent behavior, the defendant should not be held responsible for vehicular assault.

For example, in the case of State v. Smith, the defendant claimed that the accident was caused by a mechanical failure of his car, and the court found that the accident was not caused by the defendant’s reckless behavior. This would generally require experts to evaluate your vehicle and determine if a mechanical failure rather than impairment was the proximate cause of the accident.

It’s important to note that these defenses may or may not be applicable to a specific case. The attorneys at Barnes & Fersten will ask you specific questions to evaluate your specific case and the evidence to determine the most effective defense strategy.

Additionally, depending on potential defenses that may be available in your case, we may consult with experts or retain an expert on your behalf to establish your defense and potentially testify at trial.


When it comes to fighting the legal charges brought against you, it’s important to know that you have rights. A vehicular assault charge is no different. However, having rights might not do you any good, if you are not familiar with them. We will make you aware of what those rights are, and how they can apply to your case. We represent individuals charged with vehicular assault across East Tennessee, including but not limited to Knox County, Loudon County, Anderson County, Blount County, Sevier County, Union County, McMinn County, and Roane County.

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