Criminal Defense

What is a ‘Lying in Wait’ Murder?

April 21, 2023 by Madison Ferguson in Criminal Defense  Special Report  
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Lying in Wait Murder

An individual may develop a comprehensive strategic plan covering all aspects of the intended course of action when thinking about assaulting another person. This can entail finding a hiding place and waiting until the right time to mount an attack or commit an instantaneous homicide against an unsuspecting victim. The victim is usually unaware of any incident until they are ambushed, then injured or killed. Depending on the jurisdiction, the seriousness of the charges and penalties increases when there are multiple attempts or whether the victim survives or dies.

Factors in Lying in Wait

By establishing specific elements for the crime, the inclusion of lying in wait in criminal law makes it easier for law enforcement to define the crime. The victim usually suffers adverse outcomes from this activity, and the perpetrator usually goes out of their way to conceal their involvement. The victim typically has no knowledge of or connection to the offender, whether the relationship is direct or indirect. The event typically precedes the murder of several people, which the attacker’s intended targets can determine. Although some of these incidents involve lethal weapons, they can still be classified as lying in wait even when the perpetrator has no means of killing the victim.

The Moment of Opportunity

The act of lying in wait involves the perpetrator intentionally isolating themselves while planning an impending attack and patiently waiting for a mutually advantageous opportunity that could last a long time. The term “opportunity” here refers to the best time to take action rather than hiding oneself to keep a target from realizing there might be danger ahead. The possibility, however, depends on the current situation. When a perfect victim appears in their path, some murderers may decide to hide in a moving vehicle and end their pursuit. Additionally, rather than premeditating the acquisition of weapons, the attacker may see an opportunity to acquire them near the scene of the assault.

How the prosecutor establishes the act of lying in wait?

One commits the crime of murder through the act of lying in wait when:

  • The individual in question purposely hid their intentions from the person who was ultimately killed.
  • They remained attentive and vigilant, anticipating an opportune moment to make a move.
  • The individual launched a sudden assault resulting in the demise of the victim.

It should be noted that in many jurisdictions, a fourth element of proof is frequently introduced, although the specific details of this can vary. Some states contend that an individual can only be deemed guilty of murder when they have the intent to kill the victim, while other states uphold that the decisive factor is:

  • The intention was not to cause fatality to the individual rather,
  • The intention is to wait, observe and catch a targeted individual off guard with a sudden attack.

According to legal provisions, lying in wait is not constrained by a set duration. The time must be significant and express a mental state comparable to deliberation or premeditation.

The act of deliberation means an individual scrutinizes the factors that support or oppose a particular course of action to make an informed decision.
An action is considered to have been planned deliberately or with premeditation when the determination to carry out the particular act is made in advance of its actual execution.

The Most Effective Defenses?

Elements that were not proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is imperative to consider that to secure a conviction for this crime; the prosecutor must present evidential proof of specific criteria. As an illustration, it is necessary to establish that the perpetrator had exhibited patience and vigilance in seeking out an opportune moment to carry out the homicidal act. According to the tenets of jurisprudence, an appropriate legal strategy for the defendant is to argue that the prosecutor failed to substantiate these key components beyond a cognizable uncertainty.


The accused has the legal right to plead insanity as a defense in cases of murder. As per legal regulations, an individual can be classified as being mentally unsound if:

  • They lacked comprehension of the underlying character of the act in question.
  • They were unable to discern between what was morally right and wrong.

In the event of a successful defense, the accused will be deemed eligible for admission to a state facility to receive formative treatment.

Forced or Compelled Admission

State and federal statutes dictate that law enforcement officials are prohibited from resorting to oppressive tactics to extract a false confession from individuals.
If a party could demonstrate that the police compelled them to confess, then:

  • The judge reserves the right to preclude the admission of the confession as evidence.
  • The case may be entirely dismissed if the party were to admit to an offense that was not committed.

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How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

  1. Don’t ever talk to the police
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