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Utility of Non-Identifiable Fingermarks

NCJ Number
Forensic Science International Volume: 319 Dated: February 2021
Date Published
February 2021

This article presents research into non-identifiable fingermarks (NIFMs) and seeks to determine if fingermarks that have insufficient characteristics for identification can still be useful in determining degrees of correspondence and probability of occurrence within a population.


Fingermarks that have insufficient characteristics for identification often have discernible characteristics that can form the basis for lesser – yet still useful – degrees of correspondence and probability of occurrence within a population. Currently, those fingermarks that experts judge to be insufficient for identification are not used as associative evidence. However, recent research has shown large numbers of cases where non-identifiable fingermarks (NIFMs) occur that have high potential associative value. As a first step toward answering these questions, the results of recent research findings on occurrence and associative value of NIFMs were presented to a broad audience of criminal justice participants and stakeholders in the United States, including police investigators, prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys, forensic scientists, and members of the academic and research communities. There were a series of extensive, open-ended discussions aimed at obtaining individual reactions, including views on the potential contribution in different circumstances and at different stages in the criminal justice process, issues that would affect this contribution, approaches to development, and areas of concern. This produced several important insights. As a class of evidence, NIFM associations were found to be material, clearly distinct from conventional fingermark evidence, and exceptional among less definitive classes of evidence. A wide range of potential contributions were revealed at different levels in the criminal justice process. Some areas of application are suitable for immediate use. Other areas require further development or research in the methodologies, and still others must await developments in forensic science. There are important implications for researchers, practitioners, evidence collection strategies and evidence retention policies. (Published Abstract Provided)

Date Published: February 1, 2021