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Las Vegas Criminal Defense

Surprise! Fingerprints aren’t Unique After All


The results are in, and plenty of scientists and forensic experts are taken aback: the universally accepted conclusion that we all have a unique set of fingerprints has been debunked—or has it?

The Old Science 

For literally hundreds of years forensic analysts have focused on the endpoints and branching in the ridges of fingerprints—called the “minutiae”—as they attempted to match fingerprints with suspects. Never before has the correlation between fingerprints on the same person been studied.

The New Science 

Thanks to a study using artificial intelligence (AI) that is generally used in facial recognition, researchers entered 60,000 pairs of fingerprints for analysis. Some pairs of prints belonged to the same person, but with different fingers or angles on the prints, and some belonged to different people altogether.

Study Results 

In nearly 80 percent of the prints belonging to the same individual, the computer was able to determine that the prints belonged to one person after examining the curves and angles at the center of each print. The similarities disprove the old theory that every fingerprint is different.


Although researchers acknowledge that their fingerprint study needs replication using a larger and broader database of prints, they believe that ultimately the impact on criminal investigation can be extraordinary:

  • Cold cases could be reopened and new leads could be investigated when prints at the scene are from different fingers than the ones investigators have on file. More criminals could be nabbed with this analysis.
  • Innocent people who are suspects in a case can now be off the hook as suspects when their prints clear them.

Contrasting Views 

While there have been no disqualifications of the study itself, some critics of the study believe the authors overstated the significance of their work. They say everyone has known all along that fingerprints are different, but similar, and that the prints on different fingers of the same person are very similar. As for using the research to reopen cold cases when the prints found are from different fingers than the police have on record, it’s pretty common for all ten fingerprints to be taken by officers—so how does the research have any value?

What’s Next? 

As the study of fingerprints intensifies, one thing is certain: AI can provide insights previously out of reach for forensic scientists looking to link suspects to crimes. While it’s generally agreed that further study is required, the notion of looking at fingerprints in a whole new way is bringing more certainty to the conclusions reached by investigators and others.

Defending Charges 

If you are facing criminal charges, the experienced, creative, and aggressive Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at Lobo Law will provide the defense you deserve, regardless of charges or evidence against you.  Schedule a confidential consultation in our office today.

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