Is “Verbal Assault” Illegal?

Is “Verbal Assault” Illegal?In a workplace environment, “verbal assault,” or simply just saying mean or unkind remarks, may be grounds for disciplinary actions or a harassment lawsuit, but the same is not necessarily true when it comes to criminal charges. There is no such crime as “verbal assault.” However, physical assault is a crime.  Threatening physical harm or violence however is a crime.

When you threaten to or perform an act of physical violence, the victim can file assault or battery charges against you. In some cases, the threat of violence may be enough to lead to criminal charges, even if you do not physically harm someone.

For example, Tennessee criminal law (Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-101 states that “a person commits assault who:

  1. Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another;
  2. Intentionally or knowingly causes another to reasonably fear imminent bodily injury; or
  3. Intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another and a reasonable person would regard the contact as extremely offensive or provocative.”

Under point two, any person who intentionally causes someone else to fear “imminent bodily injury” can be charged with assault and serve jail time or pay fines.

How threats can create an argument for intent

Any verbal threat you make could potentially be used to prove intent to harm, which might make the charge more severe. In Tennessee, a person who kills another person in a fit of passion can be charged with voluntary manslaughter, a Class C felony. A person who plans to murder another person, however, can be charged with first degree murder, a capital crime punishable by death, depending on what the jury decides.

Homicide is not the only charge where this increased severity would apply. In domestic abuse cases, threats of violence may be enough to have you arrested and charged, leading to a loss of certain rights, access to your children, and more; and they may lead to an order of protection.

Threats in work and school settings can lead to civil claims

There are other scenarios where a verbal assault can turn into a civil matter. One such example is in the workplace, where verbal threats can lead to lawsuits.

In a school setting, the verbal attacks by students may prove bullying, or that cyberbullying is taking place. These verbal attacks could help prove that a school is not following its anti-bullying or zero-tolerance policies.

Remember, you can be charged with assault even if you do not physically harm another person, and threats can be used to prove intent, leading to more serious changes. Nashville criminal defense lawyer Perry A. Craft can help you understand the charges you face. Call the Law Office of Perry A. Craft, PLLC at 615-239-1899 or complete a contact form on our website to schedule a consultation.