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Fingerprint Sourcebook - Chapter 13: Fingerprints and the Law

NCJ Number
Date Published
26 pages

This chapter addresses the laws and rules of evidence that apply to friction-ridge impression evidence (any impression made from human friction-ridge skin, including the palms and the soles of the feet).


The chapter focuses on relevant Federal court decisions and the Federal Rules of Evidence, which may not be applicable to all States. Occasional reference is made to laws or court decisions of specific States or foreign countries when notable. The scope of the chapter includes legal aspects associated with experts and evidence, as well as legal challenges to the admissibility of friction-ridge impression evidence. Chapter sections are categorized under the following topics: "The Expert and the Rules of Evidence," "Daubert Challenges to Fingerprinting," and "Historical Account of Fingerprints, Palmprints, and Footprints in U.S. Courts." The chapter concludes that friction-ridge impression examination, whether 10-print to 10-print comparisons or latent print to 10-print comparisons, have been used in support of legal proceedings in the United States and worldwide since the early 1900s; however, latent print evidence, known exemplars of fingerprints and palmprints, and the expert must individually and collectively undergo scrutiny for compliance with legal requirements before friction-ridge evidence can be used in determining guilt. 32 references

Date Published: January 1, 2011