Simple assault in Tennessee consists of:
- intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to another person
- causing a person to reasonably fear imminent bodily injury, or
- causing physical contact with another that a reasonable person would find extremely provocative or offensive. (Tenn. Code Ann. §39-13-101.)
Simple assault is a misdemeanor primarily because it involves only minor bodily injury like a cut, scrape, or bruise. Injury such as a broken bone, disfigurement, loss of a limb, or requiring surgery or hospitalization is a “serious bodily physical injury.” If the offender causes this kind of injury, the crime is a more serious assault. For information, see Felony Assault in Tennessee.
A reckless act is one that is committed with no conscious intent to harm another, but without regard for the outcome. Pushing someone out of the way in a crowd so that you can get through, without intending to injure the person, could be an assault if the person falls and is injured.
Class A and Class B Misdemeanor
An assault in which the offender causes bodily injury or threatens the victim with immediate bodily harm is a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail or a fine up $2,500, or both. Physical contact that is provocative or offensive is a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine up to $500, or both.
An assault is a domestic assault in Tennessee if the offender and victim are family or household members – such as spouses or former spouses, adults related by blood or marriage, persons who live or have lived together or who are engaged or were engaged in a dating relationship or a sexual relationship. For more information on domestic assault, see Domestic Violence Laws in Tennessee.
A person convicted of simple assault in Tennessee can be required to pay restitution, which involves reimbursing the victim for any expenses resulting from the crime, such as the cost of medical treatment or counseling or repair or replacement of damaged property.
Judicial Diversion, Suspended Sentence and Probation
Tennessee law provides certain alternatives to a jail sentence for a person facing simple assault in Tennessee. The following are two possible alternatives.
After a defendant is convicted or pleads guilty to a simple assault charge, and if the defendant has no prior felony convictions or misdemeanor convictions for which jail time was imposed, the court may grant judicial diversion (also referred to as a deferred sentence). This means that the court postpones sentencing for a period of time on the condition that the defendant successfully complies with probation and certain other requirements, such as no new arrests or criminal offenses during the conditional period, completing psychological treatment, or doing volunteer work in the community. If the defendant satisfies all the court’s requirements, the court will discharge the defendant and dismiss the case. The arrest, diversion and dismissal will be part of the defendant’s criminal record. If the defendant fails to satisfy the court’s requirements, the court will impose a sentence and enter a conviction.
If the court suspends a sentence, the court imposes a jail sentence but allows the defendant to serve all or a portion of the time on probation rather than in jail or prison. The defendant must successfully complete probation and any other conditions the court imposes. If he fails to do so, he will be required to complete the sentence in jail. A person on supervised probation must meet with a probation officer and comply with conditions such as treatment, maintaining employment, curfews, drug tests, pay probation costs as required by the court, and avoiding any further criminal activity or arrests.
Pleas and Pre-Trial Options
If you are facing a simple assault charge in Tennessee, consider hiring an attorney, who can investigate the case and determine if you were wrongfully charged or if there are other grounds on which the case could be dismissed before trial. An attorney also may be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor on your behalf, or prepare a defense and represent you at trial, if you believe you have been wrongly accused or if there are no reasonable plea options. Prosecutors may negotiate and agree to a lighter sentence in exchange for a guilty plea or to the defendant pleading guilty to a different, less serious crime.
The Value of Good Representation
A conviction for assault becomes part of your permanent criminal record. If you are convicted later of another crime, the court can consider your prior conviction and impose a harsher sentence in the new case. A conviction for a violent crime – even a misdemeanor – can hurt you when you are looking for a job or applying to rent a house or apartment. An experienced attorney can determine whether you have any grounds for dismissal of the charges against you, explore plea options, or represent you at trial.
Only someone familiar with the local criminal court system and cases like yours will know how good your chances are for a favorable outcome in court or at the negotiating table. A knowledgeable attorney will take all of this into consideration, assist you in making decisions about your case, and protect your rights.