Fingerprints and the Difficulty Modern Term Paper

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¶ … fingerprints and the difficulty modern forensic professionals have with analyzing them. All individuals have a unique pattern, but these varieties can be lumped together in classification categories. It first discusses the three basic types of fingerprint markings. These basic types include arches, whorls, and loops. There is a detailed description of each type and the subtypes within each unique category. Next, the paper moves on to discuss the types of evidentiary fingerprints that can be left at the scene of a crime. These fingerprints are different because of the clarity, surface textures, and method for transmission of the fingerprint mark onto the surface. They include the latent print, patent print, and the plastic print. The essay here discusses each type in great detail and provides different examples for how they could have been left at various crime scenes by individual suspects. The last part of the discussion examines how it is possible for individuals to touch a surface and not leave a visible fingerprint. The paper concludes with a discussion of how complex fingerprint analysis is and how this is a continuously evolving field, which is constantly adapting to new innovations in technology.


Every one of us has distinct fingerprint marks that are unique to our individual person, yet there are three basic fingerprint patterns that are used in forensic science and other fields. There is the arch, the loop, and the whorl (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2013). The arch is a pattern is only found in about 5% of the entire population (Lazaroff, 2010). In arch markings, the "ridges tend to enter from one side of the print and leave out the other side" (Lazaroff, 2010). Thus, plain arches are found to resemble a pattern like a wave. There is also the tented arch, which is distinct from the plain arch because it is much sharper at the top of the arch.

The next basic type is the loop. This is also a common fingerprint found in a number of individuals. Between 60 and 65% of the population have loop markings (Lazaroff, 2010). There is essentially a loop shape that goes from one end of the finger to the other. According to the research, loops "must have one or more ridges entering from one side of the print, curving and exiting from the same side" (Lazaroff, 2010). Again, loops can also be broken down into even more specific categories based on the specific direction the loop extends outwards to. For example, cases of radial loops shows the loop starting closer to the thumb side of the finger, which is closer to the radius or the inner part of the wrist and lower arm (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2013). It then extends outwards towards the pinky side of the hand. The ulnar loops are just the opposite. These start closer towards the pinky finger side of the hand, which is much closer to the ulna, or the outer bone of the wrist and lower arms.

Finally, there is the whorl. Here, the research suggests that about 30 to 35% of the population has whorl markings (Lazaroff, 2010). These patterns of type lines and two deltas. These are essentially open ended circles that whorl around the fingerprint marking. There is a greater variety of whorl types of fingerprints than of the other two basic categories (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2013). Plain whorls "must have at least one ridge that makes a complete circuit, and an imaginary line from one delta to the other must touch a whorl ridge" (Lazaroff, 2010). There are also accidental whorls, double loop whorls, peacock's eye whorls, composite, and central pocket loop whorls.

There are also a number of different types of evidentiary fingerprints that one could expect to find at a crime scene as well. These different types are the types of fingerprints that are left on various surfaces with the aid of different substances or sweat secretions. The first basic type of evidentiary fingerprint commonly found at crime scenes is the latent print (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2013). These types of print were accidentally left by the suspect and are hidden and invisible to the naked eye. Forensic specialists need special black lighting or powders to find these prints at the scene of a crime. Upon contact with a receptive surface, latent prints are transferred through the sweat secreted by the glands on the fingers, or by contact with any other types of fluid or powder that would leave a residual fingerprint, such as blood, ink, or other dirt or recognizable substance that were then wiped away, yet not enough to truly remove the entire unseen elements of the fingerprint. These prints may have been invisible since they were placed on the surface, or may have faded with time. Often times, latent prints are only seen in portions, without a nice whole print left on the scene, which can make it difficult for forensic specialists to determine the origin of the fingerprint with absolute certainty. Many different latent prints can be found from a number of different individuals as they have accumulated over time, which is especially true in public places or environments where a lot of different individuals frequent. This can make determining a suspect's fingerprint above the rest. They are much less detailed that prints taken purposely, and thus are often much harder to analyze. Yet, in combination with other evidence from crime scenes, latent prints can be a huge piece of evidence for a case.

Additionally, there are patent prints often left as evidence at the scene of a crime. These are much more obvious and visible without the use of special powders or technologies. They are most often caused by the introduction of an outside or foreign substance, like a liquid or powder that leaves a visible residue on the surface on which the fingerprint is seen. Powders like flour or sugar, as well as wetter substances like mud and clay often create patent fingerprints which are easier to spot by forensic specialists without the use of special visual techniques to hunt for hidden fingerprints (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2013). Blood and other liquids also aid in the transmission of patent fingerprints on to a surface. Thus, it is much easier to document their presence through photography and other visual scanning devices.

Then, there are plastic prints. These are more three dimensional prints, where the shape of the fingerprint and its ridges are left onto a more malleable surface. For example, if an individual has a dirty finger, or the finger is placed into an impressionable surface, like concrete or clay, it would leave a plastic print. Like patent prints, these are much easier to see with the naked eye. They can also be made into plastic impressions, which provide even more clarity in fingerprint analysis and when compiling potential evidence of a crime.

It is possible for an individual to touch a surface, but not leave a fingerprint. Often times, the imprint left by a finger are done so because of the natural secretions caused by the eccrine glands in each small ridge on the finger. The sweat from these glands is what often transfer onto surfaces and thus leave a fingerprint on the surface that has been touched. However, these secretions may be washed off the fingers or the surface after contact, which would essentially erase the fingerprint from the surface, even though it was touched by the individual present at the scene (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2013). Moreover, the actual texture and consistency of the surface itself may influence the strength of a fingerprint left on it. For example, if the surface is rubbery or has a lot of texture, the secretions form the finger may not transfer onto the surface in enough clarity to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Fingerprints and the Difficulty Modern.  (2014, January 15).  Retrieved February 20, 2019, from

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"Fingerprints and the Difficulty Modern."  15 January 2014.  Web.  20 February 2019. <>.

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"Fingerprints and the Difficulty Modern."  January 15, 2014.  Accessed February 20, 2019.