Sunday, 15 December 2013

Pros and Cons of Fingerprint Evidence



Fingerprint evidence, although sometimes not as high-profile as other high-tech crime-solving methods like DNA typing, is still very much used in criminal investigations and cases. While the principle that no two people can have the same fingerprints cannot be scientifically validated, fingerprint evidence is generally considered to be highly reliable and is particularly accessible to juries: You don't need a Ph.D. or a scientific lecture on genetics to understand that your own fingers contain a contour map of ridges and whorls that is completely unique.

Fingerprint evidence rests on two basic principles:

  1.  A person's "friction ridge patterns" (the swirled skin on their fingertips) don't change over their lifetimes.
  2.  No two people have the same pattern of friction ridges. Even identical twins have different fingerprints.

Police officers use fingerprints to identify defendants by comparing prints found at a crime scene with prints already in police files. Fingerprints can filed for a many reasons. For example, people may be fingerprinted when they are arrested or when they begin certain occupations. 

How Fingerprints Are Found

Friction ridges contain rows of sweat pores, and sweat mixed with other body oils and dirt produces fingerprints on smooth surfaces. Fingerprint experts use powders and chemicals to make such prints visible. The visibility of a set of prints depends on the surface from which they're lifted; however, with the help of computer enhancement techniques that can extrapolate a complete pattern from mere fragments, and laser technology that can read otherwise invisible markings, fingerprint experts increasingly can retrieve identifiable prints from most surfaces.

The age of a set of fingerprints is almost impossible to determine. Therefore, defendants often try to explain away evidence that their fingerprints were found at crime scenes by testifying that they were at the scene and left the prints at a time other than the time of a crime.
 
With the pros and cons that this type of expert evidence comes with, do you still think that it can still be considered a reliable method? Hope to get feedbacks soon ! :)


Reference : Fingerprint Evidence in Criminal Cases (http://www.nolo.com)

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