Fingerprints are one of the oldest and most important evidence categories in forensic science. The use of these curious, highly individual friction ridge skin patterns on the end joint of the fingers as a means of personal identification dates back many centuries. We have reached a point where fingerprint individuality is an article of faith among the public and is almost universally accepted among forensic and other scientists. According, a fingerprint match is widely accepted as certain evidence that identifies a particular person.
Because fingerprints are unique, they are used to identify people. In forensic science, we think of fingerprints as being used primarily to help locate, identify, and eliminate suspects in criminal cases. But fingerprints, along dentition, are also important in making unequivocal identifications of human remains when more conventional methods of postmortem identification cannot be used. Fingerprints may also be thought of as one member of a class of biometric identifiers that also include retina or iris patterns, face thermography, and some others.
As the technology for rapid scanning and storage of these biometric patterns develops, they are becoming more important as security features to help avoid problems associated with forged identification documents. The two features of fingerprints most important for their use a means of personal identifications are (1) every fingerprint is unique to an individual, and (2) fingerprints do not change throughout life unless damage has occurred to the dermal skin layer. The background and history of the science of fingerprints constitute an eloquent drama of human lives, of good an evil.
Nothing has played a part more exciting than that enacted by the fascinating loops, whorls, and arched etched on the fingers of a human being. History of Fingerprint Pattern Recognition: The modern history of fingerprint identification begins in the late 19th century with the development of identification bureaus charged with keeping accurate records about individuals indexed, not according to name, but according to some physical attribute. Only in 19 century was modern stated bureaucratic enough to presume to maintain organized criminal records that extended beyond a single parish of locality.
Early criminal records indexed by name were vulnerable to subversion by the simple expedient of adopting an alias. Hence there developed the idea of indexing records according to some bodily feature. An early, extremely cumbersome, effort was the British Register of Distinctive Marks, which listed convicts according to some distinctive feature like a birthmark, scar, or tattoo. The demand for criminal histories was in large part driven by changes in jurisprudence. A Shift of a focus from the criminal act to the criminal individual demanded more complete and accurate knowledge about each offender’s criminal history.
This would enable individualized penal “treatment” and differential punishment on first-time offenders and recidivists. Although there is a long and murky prehistory of uses of fingerprints to authenticate the identity of individuals, principally in Asia, it was not until the late 19century that efforts were made to use fingerprints for the more technically demanding process of identification that is, rather than merely verifying whether or not an individual is claiming the correct identity, selecting the correct identity of an unknown individual from a large database of possible identities.
The cradle of modern fingerprint system was colonial India, where British administrators were concerned about maintaining social control over the native population. A workable identification system was desired for numerous purposes, including combating fraud through impersonation in the disbursement of what today would be called “entitlements,” such as pensions; resolving disputed identities in civil legal disputes over land deeds or contracts; monitoring the movement of targeted population groups, such as the so-called criminal tribes; and maintaining criminal histories of person convicted of crimes.
(Ratha, Bolle 1, 2) The main impetus behind the development of fingerprints identification was using fingerprints patterns to index large database of criminal records in order to prevent recidivists from evading their past crimes by adopting an alias. Early innovators quickly realized, however, that another application of fingerprint patterns was possible; forensic investigation of crimes, using friction ridge impressions the perpetrator inadvertently left at a crimes scene.
As noted, John Maloy actually performed a forensic identification in the late 1850s, but the innovation was lost to history, and Thomas Taylor suggested that fingerprints left a crime scene might identify perpetrators. (Ratha, Bolle 11) Forensic Fingerprint Identification (Fingerprint Matches) No matter what the statistical basis or lack thereof, of the variability of underlying fingerprint patterns, the question remains of how two impressions of these supposedly unique patterns might be matched to one another.
That is, how can we vouch for the conclusion that two impressions derive from the same source pattern? Galton and the French anatomist Rene Forgeot were probably the first to try to articulate a matching process. Forgeot suggested that photography of two impressions to be compared be enlarges and that the ridgelines be traced—that is, visually enhanced. From this enhancement it would be easier to make a visual determination of whether the two impressions matched. Galton’s suggestion was somewhat more systematic.
He proposed that the analyst focus on locations where the ridgelines either ended abruptly or bifurcated. Galton called these locations “minutiae,” and they were later variously termed “Galton points,” “Galton details,” or “ridge characteristics. ” By ascertaining that minutiae were located in the same locations relative to one another, Galton argued, one could conclude that two impressions derived from the same source finger. (Ratha, Bolle 12) The Identification Division of the FBI
In order that the FBI identification division can provide maximum service to all law enforcement agencies, it is essential that standard fingerprints cards and other forms furnished by the FBI be utilized. Fingerprints must be clear and distinct and complete name and descriptive data required on the form should be furnished in all instances. In cases where the date of birth in not known, give the approximate age of the subject, Fingerprints should be submitted promptly to the law enforcement agency seeking his/her apprehension.
Many instances have been observed where an individual is fingerprinted by more than one law enforcement agency for the same arrest. This duplicate submission of fingerprints can be eliminated by placing a notation on the first set of fingerprints sent to the FBI requesting copies of the record for other interested law enforcement agencies, thereby eliminating submission of fingerprints by the latter agencies. The FBI Identification Division has arranged with the identification bureaus of many foreign countries to exchange criminal identification data in case of mutual interest.
Fingerprints and arrest records of persons arrested in this country are routed to the appropriate foreign bureaus in cases when the interested agency in the United States has reason to believe an individual in custody may have a record in or be wanted by the other nation. Similarly, fingerprints are referred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation by foreign bureaus when it seems a record may be disclosed by a search of the Bureau’s records.
Numerous identifications, including a number of fugitives, have been effected in this manner, and it is believed that the complete development of this project will provide more effective law enforcement throughout the world. When the facts indicate an individual may have record in another country, and the contributor submits an extra set of his/her fingerprints, they are transmitted by this Bureau to the proper authorities. First Just Fingerprints, Now DNA Fingerprints
Except for identical twins, no two people have exactly the same base sequence in their DNA. Scientists can distinguish one person from another on the basis of differences in those sequences. 2 Each human has a unique set of fingerprints. Like all other sexually reproducing species, each also has a DNA fingerprint- a unique array of DNA sequences inherited in a Mendelian pattern from parents. More than 99 percent of the DNA is the same in all humans, but the other one percent is unique to each individual.
These unique stretches of DNA are sprinkled through the human genome as tandem repeats—many copies of the same short DNA sequences, positioning one after the other along the length of a chromosome. DNA fingerprinting reveals differences in the tandem repeats among individuals. Restriction enzyme cuts their genomic DNA into an assortment of fragments. The sizes of those fragments are unique to the individual. They reveal genetic differences between individuals, and they can be detected as RFLPs (restricted fragment length polymorphisms).
DNA fingerprints help forensic scientists identify criminals, victims, and innocent suspects. (Starr 226) DNA: Investigative Applications (fingerprints are successful in solving the cases) From a single thin strand of hair, from a small innocuous stain hidden in a corner under a rug and regularly missed by the naked eye, from a fleck of skin on a windowsill or from the sweat of another man’s brow—lives have been altered, changed dramatically and forever by DNA. DNA technology has revolutionized both the forensic and medical communities in a manner unimaginable just a few years ago.
Forensic—commonly considered to be the application of science and technology to the law—has been radically changed in a way that has already surpassed the development of fingerprint identification and the revolution that had ushered in just a few short generations ago. DNA has allowed criminal investigators to reach back in time and snare perpetrator of violent crimes in cases that most thought long forgotten and buried deep within the dusty recesses of police stations or in basements of crime labs across the country.
Courts some times struggled with interpretation of the statures, rules, and case law that applied to deciding whether to order testing. Fortunately, a significant number of prosecutors across the country agreed to testing without the need for a court to decide. Because of the power of DNA to resolve questions that simply couldn’t be answered at the time of the original trails, testing was often mutually agreed to. The possibility of having convicted an innocent inmate was—and continues to be—a great concern to everyone inside and outside the criminal-justice system.
The opposite, but perhaps equally important, consequences of PCR’s power was the prospect of solving cases in which there was never before any information about the identity of the person who committed the crime. By testing biological evidence recovered at the crime scene or found on a victim and comparing it with databases of DNA profiles from known offenders, previously unsolved cases can be resolved. Early on, the FBI recognized the potential for identifying attackers in this way.
For decade, the FBI had stored and maintained fingerprint records of anyone arrested in the United States for a felony or a jail able misdemeanor. Those known fingerprints were digitized and routinely searched for comparison with unknown fingerprints collected at crimes scenes. DNA profiles are much easier to incorporate into a national database system than fingerprints because DNA types are simply numerical information. The only major issue is which groups of people should be required to provide samples of their DNA for inclusion in databases. (Clarke 120)
Solving cases through fingerprints successfully and unsuccessfully If the scenario were such that the suspect resided at or frequented the scene of the crime then this type of association would be of relatively low value for developing investigative leads. A possible exception would be if the precise location of the evidence were suggestive of the suspect’s involvement in the crime or if the time frame in which the evidence was deposited could be established: for example, a bloody fingerprint recovered from the homicide scene or on a victim’s body.
This type of assimilation could provide necessary linkage between a suspect and victim. In many case, family members or close associates of the victims commit violent crime. In a wealthy rural community a couples were bludgeoned to death and their bodies set on fire. Careful examination of the entire exterior of the victim’s air house indicated that access was gained into house by removal of a window air conditioning unit. On the panes of glass where the air conditioner had been removed a set of 10 latent fingerprints were located and developed.
Subsequently, these latent prints were identified as belonging to the couple’s estranger son. Due to their son’s drug problems, the couple has asked the son to leave their home a few months earlier and had changed the locks on the house doors. Thus despite the previous presence of the son within the house the exact location and pattern of the latent prints was highly relevant and could be attributed to having been deposited during the value of systematic search for evidence, and the ability to solve a case by linkage the scene, victim, suspect, and physical evidence in some meaningful fashion.
(Lee, Palmbach, Miller 114,115) In some cases, the investigation yields results that point directly to the criminal and provide solid evidence against the offender. Generally, this happens when the perpetrator’s fingerprints are found at the scene and the prints are already on file. Such cases happen infrequently, but the use of AFIS, Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems, has greatly improved the chances of identifying the criminal and many cold cases have been solved through AFIS technology. The work of crime scene investigators’ is frequently thankless.
Often the public and police officers think of them as a modern day incarnation of Sherlock Holmes or one of several popular characters on television portraying crime scene investigators. Some expect that real-life crime scene investigators are capable of magically establishing complete information on the identity of the criminal and solving the crime quickly, as television is able to, so within the hour allotted to the usual TV show. When a crime scene investigator does not succeed in doing just that, he may be considered unsuccessful. This attitude is, of course, ridiculous.
It is the duty of detectives to pursue and apprehend the criminal; the duty of the crime scene investigator is to gather all evidence available at the scene. For the investigative process to function best, the detective and the crime scene investigator need to work cooperatively. Each must consider the other as part of the team. The notion of teamwork in criminal investigations is a key factor to a case’s solution. Each person in the process plays a vital role. Any one individual can do something that has disastrous consequences to a case or makes a significant contribution.
No one, including the uniformed police officer, the detective, the forensic specialist, the medical examiner, or the prosecutor, can fulfill his duty without the cooperation and assistance of all the other people on the team. (Fisher 48) Some times the police and the investigators are not able to solve the case by the use of fingerprints. In some cases, when the criminal uses the gloves or the plastic gloves then in many cases the police or the forensic specialists are not able to solve the cases. The criminal does all the acts after wearing gloves on his hands, so the fingerprints could not be found at the place.
So some cases are not successfully solved by the use of fingerprints. Conclusion Criminal identification by means of fingerprints is one of the most potent factors in obtaining the apprehension of fugitives who might otherwise escape arrest and continue their criminal activities indefinitely. This type of identification also makes possible an accurate determination of the number of previous arrests and convictions which, of course, results in the imposition of more equitable sentences by the judiciary, in as much as the individual who repeatedly violates the law finds it impossible to pose successfully as a first, or minor, offender.
The use of fingerprints for identification purposes is based upon distinctive ridge outlines which appear on the bulbs on the inside of the end joints of the fingers and thumbs. These ridges have definite contours and appear in several general pattern types, each with general and specific variations of the pattern, dependent on the shape and relationship of the ridges. The outlines of the ridges appear most clearly when inked impressions are taken upon paper, so that the ridges are black against a white background. This result is achieved by the ink adhering to the friction ridges.
Impressions may be made with blood, dirt, grease or any other foreign matter present on the ridges, or the saline substance emitted by the glands through the ducts or pores which constitute their outlets. The background or medium may be paper, glass, porcelain, wood, cloth, wax, putty, silverware, or any month, nonporous material. Of all the methods of identification, fingerprinting alone has proved to be both infallible and feasible. Its superiority over the older methods, such as branding, tattooing, distinctive clothing, photography, and body measurements (Bertillon system), has been demonstrated time after time.
While many cases of mistaken identification have occurred through the use of these older systems, to date the fingerprints of no two individuals have been found to be identical. Reference Clarke, George. (2008). Justice and Science: Trials and Triumphs of DNA Evidence. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. 120 Fisher, J, A, Barry. (2004). Techniques of Crime Scene Investigation. USA: CRC Press48 James, H, Stuart. Nordby, J, Jon. (2005). Forensic Science: An Introduction To Scientific And Investigative Techniques. USA: CRC Press 341, 342 Lee, C, Henry.
Palmbach, Timothy. Miller, T, Marilyn. (2001). Henry Lee’s Crime Scene Investigation. Scotland: Academic Press115, 114. Ratha, Kanta, Nalini. Ruud Bolle. (2004). Automatic Fingerprint Recognition Systems. Germany: Springer 1, 11, 12, 13 Savino, O, John, Turvey, E, Brent, John, J, Baeza. (2005). Rape Investigation Handbook. Scotland: Academic Press. 175 Science of Fingerprints: Classification and Uses. (1988). Darby: DIANE Publishing 195, 1-5 Wall, J, Wilson. (2004). Genetics & DNA Technology : Legal Aspects. New York: Routledge Cavendish.Sample Essay of Eduzaurus.com