Latent Prints: A Perspective on the State of the Science

By Peterson, Peter E.; Dreyfus, Cherise B. et al. | Forensic Science Communications, October 2009 | Go to article overview

Latent Prints: A Perspective on the State of the Science


Peterson, Peter E., Dreyfus, Cherise B., Gische, Melissa R., Hollars, Mitchell, Roberts, Maria Antonia, Ruth, Robin M., Webster, Heather M., Soltis, Greg L., Forensic Science Communications


Introduction

For more than 100 years, the science of latent print examination has provided a powerful tool in the investigation of crime. Given its early use, it is not surprising that the latent print discipline developed a period of relatively unquestioned acceptance. However, the recent introduction of newer forensic sciences such as DNA analysis and the widespread attention given to some errors that have occurred within these disciplines have lead to increased scrutiny of all forensic sciences (Budowle et al. 2009). Such scrutiny is healthy and desirable in any scientific endeavor because it generally leads to the advancement of the sciences. The science of latent prints is currently undergoing review both internally and externally in response to such scrutiny and will continue to evolve.

In this article we review the latent print discipline by addressing many of the fundamental topics associated with latent print examination. These topics include:

* The basic premises of persistence and individuality.

* The ACE-V (Analysis, Comparison, Evaluation, and Verification) methodology.

* Standards for the conclusions in latent print examinations.

* Standards for the sufficiency of friction ridge impressions for individualization.

* The role(s) of statistical models in the latent print discipline.

* Errors and error rates in latent print examination.

* Quality assurance and documentation standards in the latent print discipline.

* The training and qualifications of latent print examiners.

* The Scientific Working Group on Friction Ridge Analysis, Study and Technology (SWGFAST).

In the following sections we define each topic, identify issues of concern, clarify issues of confusion, and make recommendations for the advancement of the science. The content of this article should not be construed as a comprehensive review of the entire latent print discipline, nor is it expected that every member of the latent print community will agree with every statement made herein. We wrote this article from our perspective as FBI Laboratory latent print examiners. Other agencies and laboratories may vary in policies and practices.

Persistence and Individuality

The latent print discipline is founded on the premises of the individuality and persistence of friction ridge skin (Wertheim and Maceo 2002). These particular characteristics of friction ridge skin were first observed as early as the 1600s, but they were more substantially established after several studies conducted in the late 1800s by such pioneers as Dr. Henry Faulds and Sir Francis Galton (Ashbaugh 1999). The results of these studies provided the initial support for the tenet that friction ridge skin could be used to individualize. More scientifically rigorous studies of the individuality and persistence of friction ridge skin have been conducted since these early studies, and research is ongoing in both of these areras (Berry et al. 1989; Maltoni et al. 2003).

Today, the premises of the persistence and individuality of friction ridge skin are well supported. The most effective support lies in an understanding of the development of the friction ridge skin during fetal growth. Research has shown that arrangements of friction ridge skin are initiated and subsequently develop through a process of differential growth at the interface between the epidermal and dermal layers of the skin, thereby accounting for their "infinite" variability (i.e., individuality) (Babler 1987, 1991). Research has also shown how the structure of the skin allows continual renewal throughout a person's lifetime of the specific friction ridge arrangements (i.e., persistence) (Cummins 1967; Hale 1952).

Additional studies also support the premises of the persistence and individuality of friction ridge skin. Empirical studies of fingerprint persistence have shown that friction ridge arrangements do not change with time, barring the formation of a scar resulting from damage or injury severe enough to disrupt the friction ridge template located at the basal layer of the epidermis (Faulds 1912; Maceo 2005). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Latent Prints: A Perspective on the State of the Science
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.