DC Criminal Lawyer David Benowitz on Fingerprint Evidence


In the wake of a report issued by the National Academy of Sciences in 2009 that identified significant problems within the field of forensic science, Senator Patrick Leahy introduced legislation on January 25 to strengthen and improve the quality of forensic evidence routinely employed in the criminal justice system.

Based upon a recent case, I fully support this effort. I tried a burglary case in December in which the only evidence against my client was a single fingerprint found on a perfume bottle inside the apartment that had been broken into. My experience with fingerprint evidence over the years has been relatively limited. For example, in possession cases, the government will routinely trot out an expert to explain why no prints were found and how that doesn't mean that your client didn't touch the gun or drugs. In others, a fingerprint is just one piece of the puzzle which shapes the path to a viable defense. Meaning, if there is a fingerprint identification, figure out how to go around it or work it into your defense, don't dispute its viability head on.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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