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DNA is a “genetic fingerprint” that can help people track down their origin story or assist law enforcement in solving a decades-old cold case. DNA testing is ubiquitous in modern times and is considered indispensable to crime fighters the world over. Where once significant emphasis was placed on fingerprinting, today swabbing for genetic material is the best tool.

Most people believe that a person’s fingerprints are unique to each person. The idea is that no two individuals have the same loops and whorls on the tips of their fingers. Long has fingerprinting been relied upon to solve crimes.

In 1880, a Scottish physician by the name of Henry Faulds wrote a letter to the scientific journal Nature claiming that fingerprinting could help law enforcement, the Smithsonian Magazine reports. In the following decades, the novel solution became routine and helped “solve” countless crimes around the world.

To this day, criminals wear gloves to disguise their identities; even though, the theory that no two people have identical fingerprints hasn’t been proven.


The Myth of Fingerprints

Simon Cole, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, and the author of Suspect Identities: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification, says that fingerprinting experts have never agreed on “a way of measuring the rarity of an arrangement of friction ridge features in the human population.” He points out that there have been numerous cases of people being charged and convicted for crimes they did not commit, according to the article.

Fingerprinting, simply put, is not an exact science and the practice is prone to human error.

When, in 1991, a federal judge in California learned that the standard for determining if prints matched was different from one county to the next, he threw out the fingerprint evidence in the trial he was presiding over. “I don’t think I’m ever going to use fingerprint testimony again,” the judge said in court. “I’ve had my faith shaken.”

Even though Science magazine declared DNA analysis was the “gold standard” in 2005, criminal law professor Erin Murphy at New York University School of Law makes clear that it is susceptible to human error. Genetic samples can get mixed up, and contamination can occur.

Still, there has been far more research on the efficacy of DNA than there has on fingerprinting, in spite of the fact the latter has been utilized for nearly a century longer.


Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

Contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you are facing legal trouble. Attorney Brower has been named “One of the Southland’s Finest” and has been honored by Best Lawyers in America. As a leading player in the Southern California legal scene, he can help you achieve a favorable result.

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