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Latent Fingerprint Examination

Forensic science is an important tool for investigating crime and helping to determine guilt or innocence at trial, but questions have been raised about the validity and reliability of many forensic disciplines. A crucial National Research Council report issued in 2009 noted that most forensic disciplines have not been subjected to rigorous scientific study, arising as they have from crime labs, not academia. Further, there was no way to know which aspects of these disciplines were based on a solid scientific footing and which were not. This report examines the bases for latent fingerprint examination, and sets forth what we know, what we do not know, and what the gaps are. The 14 recommendations in the report constitute a roadmap for further research. Scientists and funding agencies can use this research agenda in setting priorities for further studies, including the involvement of scientists in the natural and social sciences. The report should also help key actors in the criminal justice system–law enforcement, lawyers, and judges–make more informed decisions.

Please read the AAAS News story, Fingerprint Source Identity Lacks Scientific Basis for Legal Certainty.

Also, please see the following Questions and Answers Regarding the AAAS and PCAST Fingerprint Reports, prepared by William C. Thompson, Chair, AAAS Latent Fingerprint Examination Working Group.

The Latent Fingerprint report is the second in a two-part installment The first forensic report, Fire Investigation, can be found here.

Download the Report