Tag Archive for: fingerprints

ASCLD – American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors.

AFIS – Automated Fingerprint Identification System. Palmprint storage and search capabilities are also in place.

ALPS – Automated Latent Print System.

ASCLD/LAB – American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board.

Acid Fuchsin – Reddish protein stain used to enhance bloody friction ridge detail of fingerprints.

Acid Yellow 7Fluorescent dye stain used to help visualize latent prints left in blood on nonporous surfaces.

Acid Yellow-7, Arrowhead Forensics

Acidified Hydrogen Peroxide – Solution used to develop friction ridge detail on cartridge casings by etching the surface of the casing not covered with sebaceous material (oils and/or fats).

Adactylia – Congenital absence of fingers and/or toes.

Adermatoglyphia – Extremely rare congenital absence of fingerprints.

Alanine – The most common amino acid found in proteins. Alanine is often
used to test latent print chemicals for an amino acid reaction.

Aluminum Chloride – A metal salt used to treat ninhydrin developed latent prints.

Amicus Brief – Legal document filed by someone not associated with a case but possibly has knowledge of a subject matter that may be of interest to the courts.  The person submitting the brief is known as amici curiae.

Amicus Curiae – Latin for “friend of the court.”

Amido Black – Bluish-black stain used to enhance bloody fingerprint friction ridge detail.

Anhidrosis – Medical condition that reduces or prevents the body’s ability to sweat.

Benzidine – Once described as the best technique for developing bloody latent prints on nonporous items, Benzidine has been linked to cancers and is no longer used.

Bichromatic ™ – A multi-colored powder used to process an object for fingerprints.

Boiling – Method used to re-hydrate the friction skin/fingerprints/footprints of a deceased person. To process the prints water is boiled and them removed from the heat. The hand of the deceased is submerged in the water for approximately five seconds. The skin is then dried and the fingers and/or palm is printed.

CJIS – Criminal Justice Information Services Division.

Calcar Area – The area located at the heel of the foot.

Cheiloscopy – The study of lip prints.

Clandestine – In secret.

Cluster Prints – More than one fingerprint grouped/clumped/positioned in the same spot of a surface.

Comparator – A split image projection screen used to view and compare fingerprints.

Core – Center of a fingerprint pattern.

Dactylography – The study of fingerprints as a method of identification.

De-gloving – The accidental/unintentional separation of the skin from the hands or feet. This “skin slippage” often occurs after a body has been submerged in water for a period od time.

Diff-Lift™ – Fingerprint lifting tape made especially for use on textured objects.

Dorsal – The backside of the hand.

Erroneous Exclusion – Disregarding evidence without a sound basis for doing so.

Exemplar – The known prints of a known individual.

FLS – Forensic Light Source. Includes all light sources used in forensic examinations.

FRE – Federal Rules of Evidence.

Fingerprint Society – Yes, it’s a thing. The Fingerprint Society was conceived in 1974 by Martin J. Leadbetter.

Genipin – A reagent used to develop friction ridge detail on porous items. The result is a dark blue image that can be seen without enhanced lighting.

Hallux – A person’s big toe.

Sir William James Herschel – The first European to recognize and utilize the value of fingerprints for identification purposes.

Histology – The study of the microscopic structure of animal or
plant tissues.

Hot Breath TechniqueBreathing on a latent fingerprint either to help visualize the print or to add moisture back into an older latent print. Also known as Huffing.

Hyperhidrosis – Medical condition that increases sweating. Sometimes caused by certain medications, or heredity.

Hypohidrosis – Medical condition that decreases sweating. Sometimes caused by certain medications, or heredity or damage to the skin.

IAFIS – Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. The FBI’s first
fully automated AFIS computer database.

Image Reversal – Occurs when the friction ridges in a latent print are reversed. Unintentional transferred prints could occur when using rubber lifters. It’s even happened when items are stacked on top of one another (stacks of evidence bags, for example), causing a print to transfer from one item to the next. The same is true with books. A print from one page could transfer to the next page (after the book is closed for a long time). These prints are mirror images and should be obvious to a trained examiner.

Latent Print – Print that is visible to the naked eye.

Liqui-drox – Fluorescent (yellow) solution used to enhance/develop fingerprint friction ridge detail on the adhesive and non-adhesive sides of dark colored tape.

Loupe – Small magnifying glass used to examine prints.

Skin, as you all know, is the largest organ of the human body. It’s the non-manmade tarp that covers our insides—organs, bones, and all the other goopy-gooey stuff that autopsies and surgeons expose when those needs arise.

Our skin protects us from microbes and the weather. Obviously we wouldn’t want rain, snow, and sleet pounding on our stomachs and livers, nor would we want hot summertime sunshine baking our spleens, or cold wintertime air forming icicles that would hang precariously from our ribcages.

Skin helps regulate body temperature and permits us to enjoy the pleasures of a warm embrace and the sensation of brisk and cool fall air.

The covering of our bodies may look smooth, but of course it’s not. Wrinkles and creases work similar to the flexing baffles of an old pump organ, or an accordion. Those instruments work by using air pressure that’s created when bellows are expanded and contracted. The laugh lines around our eyes and the folds at our elbows, for example, allow the skin there to move and stretch.

A close look at our hands and feet reveals ridges and sweat pores that allow the hands and feet to grasp surfaces firmly. Without those, picking up or grasping smooth objects could become nearly impossible.

Skin helps homicide detectives solve murders

Friction ridge skin has distinct features that remain from before birth until after death when our bodies go through the decomposition process.

When those unique features come into contact with various surfaces they leave impressions of those corresponding unique details. These impressions are, of course, fingerprints, the characteristics that helps investigators find criminals by comparing prints found at a crime scene with those of a known suspect.

So how and when do we first develop those identifiable fingerprints?

Fetal Growth

During the third month, the embryo’s nervous system and sense organs develop. Arms and legs begin to move and reflexes such as sucking are noticed. Facial expressions can be visualized at this stage of growth.

This is also when early fingerprints begin to take shape—friction ridges begin to form at about 10.5 weeks estimated gestational age (EGA).

Prints continue to mature in depth as the embryo passes into the second trimester.

Second Trimester: Fingerprints are Here to Stay

Significant growth occurs within The second trimester. Bone growth is active, the body becomes covered with fine hair. Friction ridges continue to grow until approximately 16 weeks EGA. That’s the point when the minutiae, the specific, fine points in a finger image that identifies one person from another, become set.

It is at this stage of life—16 weeks EGA—when this little person who has not yet been born now has an identity all its own.

Yes, Baby, it’s You!

Especially for you, an O-R guide to fingerprinting … and more.

Oil Gland– Unlike eccrine and apocrine glands, which are sweat glands, the sebaceous gland is considered an oil gland.

Oligodactyly– Having less than the ordinary number of fingers or toes.

Orthodactyly– Fingers and toes cannot be flexed.

Ortho-Tolidine– A dual-purpose chemical that works both as a presumptive test for blood and has also been used to develop fingerprint detail on human skin.

Osborn Grid Method– Superimposing a grid on photographic enlargements of latent prints found at a crime scene as well as the inked fingerprints of a suspect(s). Scientist then painstakingly examine both, square by square looking for matching individualities.

Os calcis– A bone in the foot.

Osmium Tetroxide (Osmic Acid Fuming)– A fuming technique used to process items for latent fingerprints. Due to excessive costs and dangers associated with the product, it is now rarely used, if ever.


PBFE– Probability Based Fingerprint Evidence.

Papillary Ridges– Rows of eccrine glands situated along the trail of fingerprint

friction ridges.

Patent Print– Fingerprints that are visible without development. (Latent prints are typically invisible to the naked eye).

Pathology– The study of causes, nature, and effects of diseases, trauma, and other abnormalities, and the changes to the body created by them.

Pattern Formations– Details of fingerprints created as early as the third month of gestation.

Pelmatoscopy– The scientific studies of the friction ridges of the soles of feet.

Pen Pack/Penitentiary Packet– A pen pack is the comprehensive imprisonment record of an inmate that’s supplied by the Department of Corrections. When fingerprints are included in the pen pack, and they are indeed typically found there, they’re used for comparison purposes. Other information found in pen packs are terms of confinement, background intelligence, and other similar details.

Perceptual Set – The tendency to see what we expect to see.

Phalange– Any bone in the fingers or toes.

Phalangeal– Of the bones in the fingers and toes.

Physical Developer– Chemical processing technique to develop latent prints on porous items. The technique was developed in the 1970s to develop fingerprints on porous items.

Pincushion Method– AKA the Constellation Method.  This outdated technique was used in the first half of the 20th century to compare prints and to confirm an identification. Investigators pushed pins through each of the ridge characteristics of both latent (prints discovered at a crime scene) and known prints (prints of a known suspect). They then compared the holes (from the reverse sides). If the holes on the latent print matched those of the suspect’s print, well, they had their man, or woman.

If you happen to have a copy of the April 1956 edition of Fingerprint and Identification Magazine, you could read more on the topic since it was featured in the issue.

Plastic Print– Fingerprint left in a malleable substance, such as clay or wax.

Points/ Points of Identification– Fingerprint ridge characteristics.


RAM– Combination of Rhodamine 6G, Ardrox and MBD dyes. The mixture fluoresces when exposed to a special alternate light source, which in turn makes it possible to see prints developed using cyanoacrylate (Superglue) fumes.

RUVIS– Reflective Ultra-Violet imaging system that allows visualization of fingerprint detail in an ultraviolet spectrum. (see below for details and a video)

Redwop ™– A fluorescent fingerprint powder.

Rubber Lifter– A sheet of flexible rubber with adhesive on one side. Rubber lifters are used to “lift” latent prints.

Ruthenium Tetroxide (RTX)– Chemical used to enhance/see fingerprint detail on fabrics and other porous material such as some stones, leather, glass, tape, wood, plastics, and even human skin and wet surfaces.


RUVIS (Reflective Ultraviolet Imaging System), a system of locating latent (invisible) fingerprints) without the use of powders, fumes, or chemicals, was developed by Sirchie Fingerprint Laboratories and the U.S. Army. The system focuses on one specific section of shortwave ultraviolet light, the germicidal spectrum of light, which cannot be seen by the naked eye.

A particularly unique feature of RUVIS technology is that it works in both total darkness and in bright sunshine, a must for use by police investigators.

The Krimesite Imager uses RUVIS technology to detect invisible residues from fingerprints. Those residues reflect UV light projected from the device, which immediately captures the reflections with a 60mm UV lens. A built-in scanner then converts the images to visible light, allowing the investigator to see the fingerprint. All this is done instantly, in real time. And, the detective is able to see images from up to fifteen feet away.

Once the print is located, the investigator uses the Imager to photograph it and, with the use of a micro-printer, print a copy of the desired evidence. All this without the messy powders that never seem to wash away. The KS Imager can also be used to greatly enhance prints developed using cyanoacrylate fuming (Super Glue).

Note – I doubt many of you will be picking up one of these devices for your home CSI kit. The price tag is between $9,000 and $22,000, depending the style of devise selected.


Here’s a video shot at the Sirchie compound near Raleigh, N.C. It shows the Krimesite Imager in action.

Those of you attending the Writers’ Police Academy, take note, because you are in for a surprise! Yes, space is available! By the way, the event is open to all (writers, readers, fans, and anyone else who’s interested in participating in a thrilling, hands-on training event) And, it is FUN!.

In the meantime …

Especially for you, an E-I guide to fingerprinting … and more.


Epidermis– Outer layer of the skin.

Epithelial Cells– Cells that line and protect the surfaces of the body. These cells form epithelial tissues such as skin and mucous membranes.

Exemplar– Fingerprints of an individual, whose identity is known or claimed, and is

deliberately recorded.


FER– Fluorescence Excitation Radiometry.

FFS– Fellow of The Fingerprint Society.

Final– Numerical value typically derived from the ridge count of the right little finger.

Fingerprint Powders– Powders used to develop and visualize friction ridge detail.

The Flak-Conley Classification System– A fingerprint classification system developed in 1906, in New Jersey.

Flats– An unofficial term for the intentional recording/fingerprinting of the four fingers of either hand, taken simultaneously

Fluorescein– Fluorescent reagent used to enhance develop bloody friction ridge detail.

Folien– A gel used to lift and preserve latent fingerprints.

Friction Ridge– The raised portion of skin found on the palmar and plantar skin.

Identical twins do not share the same fingerprints.


GYRO– The color-coded system of documenting the level of confidence that a fingerprint examiner assigns to various print details observed during the examination and comparison of prints. GYRO is an acronym for Green / Yellow / Red / Orange.

  • Green is used to note ridge details observed with high confidence levels.
  • Yellow = medium confidence levels (detail with negligible alteration).
  • Red = a great deal of uncertainty (details of great distortion).
  • Orange notes ridge details discovered after the initial examination.

Gentian Violet (akaCrystal Violet) – a violet stain used to develop and/or enrich friction ridge detail. Crystal Violet dyes the fats and oils found in sebaceous sweat. This stain is typically used to develop prints on the adhesive side of tape.

Grip Print– Prints left behind after a person “grips” an object. The entire print typically includes the side of the index finger, the inner side of the interdigital areas, the web area, and the inner side of the thumb.


Hallux– Big toe.

Huffing/The Hot Breath Technique– Breathing on a latent print introduces humidity into an older (latent/invisible) fingerprint. Doing so helps the investigator visualize it.

Hungarian Red– A red stain used to develop bloody friction ridge detail.

Hyperdactyly– Having more than the normal number of fingers or toes.

Hyperhidrosis– Medical condition that increases perspiration.

Hypohidrosis– Medical condition that reduces sweating.


IAFIS– Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System.

Image Reversal– An Image Reversal typically occurs in unintentional transferred prints (placing evidence seized in one case on top of evidence from another, such as plastic bags containing narcotics).

FYI Writers – When friction ridges from a latent print are reversed (planting a fingerprint at a crime scene, or accidentally) they tend to appear very thin and thready. Also, the background area surrounding the “new” print may not match the surface of the place where the transferred print was left. The background pattern could/would transfer along with the print. It’s also important to note that these prints are obvious mirror images and would be easily recognized by a skilled examiner.


Immigration Delay Disease (IDD)– A rare congenital absence of fingerprints. To learn more, click here.

Iodine– As either a vapor or solution, this substance helps to visualize friction ridge detail by binding with fats and oils.


Sometimes, no matter how experienced and how hard investigators try, they’re simply unable to find a fingerprint.

They dust and they dust and they twirl and whirl and spin animal hair brushes and brushes made from stork feathers, and nylon. They use dark powers, white powders, powders of all colors of the rainbow and more. Iodine and SuperGlue. But NOTHING works!

It could be that the crook wore gloves. Or, it could be …

What if police could learn the habits, lifestyles, and even which type of shampoos, deodorants, drugs and the foods consumed by criminals? Would that sort of information be useful in a criminal investigation?

Well, duh … Certainly it could be helpful to know this sort of information. After all, suppose a murder occurs  on your beat. At the scene you discover the following:

  • The killer eats garlic.
  • The killer touched a condom.
  • The killer uses SPURT shampoo
  • The killer uses Funkaway deodorant.

Since you’ve patrolled this beat for 36 years you know a crook who regularly dines at Gambillo’s Garlic House and Diva Drag Queen Review (home of the tastiest garlic ice cream on the planet). Oh, and it is widely known on the streets that Gary Gambillio, the proprietor, is a cocaine dealer who also runs a brothel in the rear of the restaurant.

So how did your stellar detecting skills help you learn of the killer’s use of SPURT, a flowery new shampoo? What about Funkaway, the deodorant that fights underarm nastiness for up to 87 hours? The garlic. Cocaine? A condom? How did you know?

Easy … you found a single fingerprint and on that print you found traces of garlic, condom lubricant, the shampoo, cocaine use (not merely handling, but actual consumption of the drug), the deodorant and, well, a lot more.

Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionisation Mass Spectrometry Imaging and Profiling

Yes, scientists have discovered a method of examining fingerprints that helps map a criminal’s lifestyle. The technology—Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionisation Mass Spectrometry Imaging and Profiling (MALDI-MSI and MALDI-MSP)— was developed by Sheffield Hallam University researchers.

Using the technology, officials are able to track a criminal’s activities and even quite a bit of his lifestyle prior to committing the crime. And the information is all there for the taking, sitting along fingerprint ridges.

So, when you go to Mr. Bad Guy’s home to chat about the murder that occurred last night, the one in the apartment next door to the home of Mr. Bad Guy, you notice a grocery receipt on the coffee table. Item number one – Funkaway deodorant. Item two – A jumbo size bottle of SPURT. Next to the receipt is a matchbook from Gambillo’s Garlic House and Diva Drag Queen Review. Not a foot away is package of new condoms and small bag of cocaine.

Therefore, being an extremely savvy detective, you allow the loop inside your mind to play. SPURT, Funkaway, garlic, cocaine, condom, murder next door … DING, DING, DING, we have a killer!

Dancing print


Fingerprints found and collected at crime scenes are eventually developed and hopefully lead the heroes of your stories to the perpetrator(s) of the crime du jour. But there’s a bit more to the process than merely using a brush, a bit of black powder, and a piece of clear tape. For example, did you know about …


Amido Black – protein enhancer for blood prints. Click this Link for details.



Gentian Violet is a skin cell stain for developing print on the sticky side of tape. Click this Link for details.


Ninhydrin – chemical for developing latent prints on porous surfaces, such a paper. Click this Link for details.


Physical Developer – chemical for developing latent prints on wet paper. Click this Link for details.


Powders are typically effective on smooth, non-porous surfaces.


Small Particle Reagent (SPR) – liquid powder solution effective on wet porous evidence). Click this Link for details.


Cyanoacrylate – Superglue fuming for all types of non-porous surfaces.


Dye Stains, such as MBD, are used to detect prints in conjunction with an ALS (Alternate Light Source) on non-porous evidence after using Cyanoacrylate (Superglue) fuming. Click this Link for details.