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Is fingerprint evidence always reliable?

| Mar 15, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

Supposedly, fingerprints tell the tale about who committed a crime. While California prosecutors could use fingerprints as evidence in a criminal case, fingerprints may not reflect the perfect evidence portrayed in many Hollywood films.

A point about fingerprint evidence

The governing idea behind fingerprint evidence focuses on the notion no two people have the same fingerprints. The assessment may not be entirely accurate and might be misleading. Still, fingerprint evidence may play a role in a state or federal prosecution’s case.

Police work could ruin fingerprint evidence. Actually, poorly performed police work might ruin other types of evidence. Ruined evidence may destroy a prosecutor’s case when it ends up suppressed.

Questions about the validity of evidence

Another myth centers on police collecting fingerprint evidence at every crime scene. The costs and effort to gather fingerprints leave “dusting for prints” something reserved for serious crimes. Dusting for prints when someone breaks a car window to steal a briefcase won’t likely occur.

Other questions may arise when using fingerprints as evidence for criminal prosecution. Fingerprints might answer the question of “who,” but not the question of “when.” For example, law enforcement may recover a weapon at a crime scene and link the fingerprints to a person of interest. The suspect may state he or she did handle the weapon several weeks ago. Who is to say someone with gloves didn’t take the weapon and commit a crime? Lacking other evidence to connect the accused to a crime, the fingerprints might not present sufficient evidence for prosecution.

A criminal defense attorney may be able to undermine the prosecutor’s use of fingerprints at trial. Those with concerns about fingerprints or other evidence could speak with an attorney about its validity. An attorney might even discuss the possibility of a motion to suppress evidence.