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What is Fingerprint Evidence?

By Harriette Halepis
Updated May 21, 2024
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Fingerprint evidence is a type of circumstantial evidence that can link a perpetrator to a crime. The validity of fingerprint evidence is based upon two basic principles: no two people have the same fingerprints and a person's fingerprint patterns never change. While fingerprint evidence seems fairly cut and dry, some people have recently questioned the foundation that this type of evidence is built upon.

Critics of fingerprint evidence believe that a "rolled fingerprint," or a fingerprint taken in a controlled environment, and a crime-scene fingerprint cannot be compared. Since crime-scene fingerprints are hardly ever complete, experts are then given the task of matching a partial fingerprint to one that is already on file. As many experts will point out, this is not as simple as it may seem. In fact, a large part of matching an incomplete print to a complete print involves guesswork.

Across the globe, many innocent individuals have been wrongly accused of crimes based upon fingerprints. Upon further investigation, these individuals were proven innocent. This type of paradox has many people throughout the world confused as to the infallibility of fingerprint evidence.

Further, many believe that with recent advancement within the field of DNA research, fingerprints should be disregarded. However, those who still strongly support fingerprint evidence are quick to point out that DNA research has its boundaries as well. Thus, the general consensus, for the time being, is that fingerprints gathered at a crime scene should be put through rigorous testing standards before being matched to any one person.

As it stands, using fingerprints to capture a criminal is still popular around the world. The main problem with using fingerprints to capture a criminal, other than the problems listed above, is that fingerprints must already be "on file" in order for law enforcement officials to match two prints.

Still, within the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) presently has millions of fingerprints on file. People's fingerprints are gathered for a number of reasons including former arrests and job applications. Additionally, many children across the world have been fingerprinted, since children who are abducted are often identified based upon a set of prints.

Clearly, there are a lot of differing opinions when it comes to collecting fingerprint evidence. Capturing a criminal based upon a set of prints is controversial to say the least. Even though fingerprints have served law enforcement officials well for decades, these tactics are now a topic of debate.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon357470 — On Dec 04, 2013

Fingerprints never change. Over 60 percent of fingerprints are loops. Every fingerprint is different.

By mendocino — On Mar 24, 2010

On the other hand, without fingerprint identification, a criminal would be difficult to capture. Criminals are rarely cought in the act of their criminal activity.

Fingerprint identification has been one of the best tools in identification.

The fact that no two prints have been found alike, so far, is remarkable. Every human being has a unique type of prints.

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