Fingerprint evidence is a gold standard for identifying suspects. Forensic professionals assert their fingerprint findings with nearly impenetrable confidence in most instances, which led to a public perception that fingerprint evidence is incontestable. Fingerprints are unique, but the processes involved in collecting, analyzing and presenting this evidence are not infallible.
If you are facing criminal charges based on fingerprint evidence, there are options to dispute the findings.
Chain of custody questions
Fingerprint evidence is only as strong as the integrity of the collection and analysis process. Any flaws in the chain of custody could reflect tampering or contamination. This might result in a false positive.
Expert testimony challenges
Forensic experts often present fingerprint evidence as fact with no room for potential errors. This is in sharp contrast to DNA experts who must identify the percentage of accuracy represented in the results. Studies indicate that as much as 0.1% of fingerprint analysis results in a false positive result. While this may seem like an insignificant variance, if you are the one person in 1,000 wrongly accused, it warrants consideration.
Context of the fingerprint
One element that many forensic professionals and investigators overlook is the context of certain types of evidence. Fingerprint evidence is not a determination of guilt or responsibility. Especially in common areas, shared spaces and properties of close friends and family, you might have a reasonable explanation for your fingerprint’s existence at the scene.
Although fingerprint evidence will likely remain a cornerstone of criminal cases, understanding its fallibility and knowing how to contest it will help you fight your charges and protect your freedom.