David L. McCormick

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Are fingerprints a reliable form of evidence?

| Mar 13, 2021 | Criminal Law

Fingerprints have developed as a commonly used form of evidence for many in Minnesota and throughout the country. Starting their induction in courtrooms in the late 1800s, they have become an indisputable form of evidence for criminal cases. This is until researchers throughout the 21st century have started to realize that fingerprints may not be as indisputable as we once thought.

There isn’t a large basis for analysis

We’ve all been told that our fingerprints are unique to our individual bodies. No one but us has the individual features that our fingerprints have. The reality is that this once assumed scientific fact actually has no large basis for comparison. The fingerprints that scientific examiners are using are only a select group of people who have their fingerprints on file.

If you’re like most of the population, your fingerprints are not on file. This creates a large gap of comparison for an examiner to determine that fingerprints are solely unique to one person. It’s hard to prove this unique ‘fact’ without having a large basis for comparison.

A call for new procedures

Since there isn’t a plethora of information that proves fingerprints are unique to each individual, there has been a call for new procedures. These new procedures are intended to keep information about fingerprints out of an investigation until after investigators form an opinion about the perpetrator. This will help to curb investigators from making assumptions of a person’s guilt early on due to a fingerprint match.

While fingerprints have been a commonly used form of evidence for a century, the tides are starting to change. People are no longer accepting old reasoning that is irreplicable on a large basis. It’s clear that further evaluation of this method of evidence gathering needs to be completed before fingerprints can be readily accepted as a viable form of evidence in any trial.