Ch 4 Fingerprinting
Ch 4 Fingerprinting
Chapter 4 - Fingerprints
“Fingerprints cannot lie, but liars can make
fingerprints.” --- unknown
What is a fingerprint?
• An imprint made by ridge patterns on the tip
of a finger.
• Also used to describe the characteristic
pattern of DNA fragments.
Why are fingerprints useful?
Properties that make a fingerprint useful for ID:
It’s unique characteristic ridges which make them
It’s consistency over a person’s lifetime. It remains
unchanged during an individual’s lifetime.
The systematic classification is used for fingertips
based on their general characteristic ridge patterns.
The Study of Fingerprints
History from 1850 to 1900
William Herschel—required Indians to put their fingerprints on contracts, and
used fingerprints as a means of identifying prisoners
Henry Faulds—claimed that fingerprints did not change over time and that they
could be classified for identification
Alphonse Bertillon—proposed body measurements as a means of identification;
Francis Galton—developed a primary classification scheme based on loops,
arches, and whorls
Edward Richard Henry—in collaboration with Galton, instituted a numerical
Juan Vucetich—developed a fingerprint classification system based on Galton’s
that is used in Spanish-speaking countries
Collection and Classification of Prints
Recording and classifying prints
Rolling inked prints
3 Basic patterns - Loops, whorls, arches
Ridge characteristics – Minutiae (very small)
Primary identification number
Black, white, and fluorescent powder
Chemicals—ninhydrin, iodine, silver nitrate, cyanoacrylate
Other types of prints
Palm, lip, teeth, eye, ear, voice, shoeprints, and footprints
Minutiae—characteristics of ridge patterns
An arch has friction ridges that
enter on one side of the finger
and cross to the other side
while rising upward in the
middle. They do NOT have
type lines, deltas, or cores.
Least common type (5%) and more
likely found in people of African
Plain – gradual bump
Tented – much higher,
A loop must have one or more ridges
entering from one side, curving
around and exiting from the same
side. Loops must have one delta.
Most common type (65%) and more
common in people of European
background. Also, forefingers have
most of the radial loops.
Radial—opens toward the thumb
Ulnar—opens toward the “pinky” (little
Which type of loop is this, if it is on the
right hand? Left hand?
A plain or central pocket whorl has at least
one ridge that makes a complete circuit.
A double loop is made of two loops. An
accidental is a pattern not covered by
other categories. Whorls have at least
two deltas and a core.
Found in 30% of population. People of Asian
ancestry are more likely to have whorls.
Four Types of Whorls
Whorl: line drawn
from delta to delta
Central Pocket: line
drawn from delta to delta
do not intersect circle.
Accidental: prints too
irregular to fall into any
The Henry-FBI Classification System
Each finger is given a point value.
**Fingerprints are given as a fraction. Identify
which fingers have whorls; each whorl has a number
based on which finger it is on.
Loops and arches are a “0”.
Example: Whorl on your left thumb and right middle finger.
0 + 0 +
0 + 0
+1 = 5
5 is your primary
0 + 8 +
0 + 0
+1 = 9
There are no legal
requirements in the United
States on the number of
points required for a match.
Generally, criminal courts will
accept 8 to 12 points of
• Indented of molded prints
• Made by pressing a finger against a plastic like
material to form a negative impression of a
• Examples: putty, soap, candle wax, gum, stamps, or
Left by a finger that has touched colored material
such as blood, paint, ink, grease, chalk, mud or
sometimes even dust.
Latent fingerprints are those that are not visible (essentially
invisible) to the naked eye. They are impressions caused by
the transfer of oils present on the finger to the surface of an
object. These prints consist of the natural secretions (body oils
and perspirations) of human skin and require development by
chemical or physical means for them to become visible.
Most secretions come from three glands:
Eccrine—secretes largely water, with both inorganic (ammonia,
chlorides, metal ions, phosphates) and organic (amino acids, lactic acids,
urea, sugars) compounds. Most important for fingerprints.
Apocrine—secretes pheromones and other organic materials.
Sebaceous—secretes fatty or greasy substances.
Developing Latent Prints
Developing a print requires substances that interact with secretions, causing the
print to stand out against its background. It may be necessary to attempt more
than one technique, done in a particular order so as not to destroy the print.
Powders —(“dusting”) -- adhere to both water and fatty deposits. Choose a color
to contrast with the background. Best on hard, nonabsorbent surfaces. Develop print by
“lifting” with clear sticky tape.
Iodine (chemical) — fumes react with oils and fats to produce a
temporary (short lasting) yellow-brown colored print. Works best on
Ninhydrin— reacts with amino acids to produce an orange to purple color. Best with
paper, tissue, clothing and other porous surfaces.
Silver nitrate & UV Light — reacts with chloride in salt to form silver chloride, a
material that turns into silver oxide (gray) when exposed to light. Porous surfaces
like paper and drywall.
Cyanoacrylate—“superglue” fumes react with water and other fingerprint constituents to
form a hard, whitish deposit that can be treated with powders or fluorescent dyes to
make a shaper contrast for photos or lifting.
In modern labs and criminal investigations, lasers and alternative light sources are
used to view latent fingerprints. These were first used by the FBI in 1978. Since
lasers can damage the retina of the eye, special precautions must be taken. 16
Other Types of Prints
Palm—friction ridges can be identified and may be used
Lips—several common patterns; not individual.
Voice—electronic pulses measured on a spectrograph
Foot—are taken at birth as a means of identification of
Size of foot and toes; not individual.
Friction ridges on the foot and toes; individual
Shoes—can be compared and identified by type of shoe,
brand, size, year of purchase, and wear pattern
Other Prints, continued
Earprint catches murderer
A man has been convicted of suffocating an eldery woman on
the basis of earprint evidence. The assailant was caught after
police matched the imprint of his ear on the victim’s window.
Police believe that the thief put his ear to the window to
listen for signs of anyone home.
Teeth—bite marks are unique and can be used
to identify suspects. These imprints were
placed in gum and could be matched to crime
Eyeprint - The blood vessel patterns in the
eye may be unique to individuals. They are
used today for various security purposes.
The Automated Fingerprint Identification System—a computer system for
storing and retrieving fingerprints
Established in the 1970s, AFIS enables law enforcement
Search large files for a set of prints taken from an individual
Compare a single print, usually a latent print developed from a
By the 1990s, most large jurisdictions had their own system in place. The
problem: A person’s fingerprints may be in one AFIS database but not
IAFIS—the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System,
which is a national database of all 10-print cards from all over the
Use of some type of body metrics for the purpose of identification.
(The Bertillon system may actually have been the first biometry
Used today in conjunction with AFIS.
Examples include retinal or iris patterns, voice recognition, hand
Other functions for biometrics: can be used to control entry or access to
computers or other structures; can identify a person for security
purposes; can help prevent identity theft or control social services