Fingerprint pattern remains stable over time, scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have found, a discovery that could put an end to the debate surrounding admissibility of fingerprint evidence in courts.
Fingerprints have been used by law enforcement and forensics experts to successfully identify people for more than 100 years.
Though fingerprints are assumed to be infallible personal identifiers, there has been little scientific research to prove this claim to be true.
As such, there have been repeated challenges to the admissibility of fingerprint evidence in courts of law.
“We wanted to answer the question that has plagued law enforcement and forensic science for decades: Is fingerprint pattern persistent over time?” said Anil Jain, University Distinguished Professor, computer science and engineering, at Michigan State University.
“We have now determined, with multilevel statistical modelling, that fingerprint recognition accuracy remains stable over time,” said Jain.
Jain, along with his former PhD student Soweon Yoon, who is now with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, used fingerprint records of 15,597 subjects apprehended multiple times by the Michigan State Police over a time span varying from five to 12 years.
The results show that fingerprint recognition accuracy doesn’t change even as the time between two fingerprints being compared increases.
The research by Yoon and Jain is the largest and most thorough study of the persistence of Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems, or AFIS, accuracy.
“This study is one of the fundamental pieces of research on a topic that has always been taken for granted,” said Professor Christophe Champod, from the Universite de Lausanne, Switzerland.
“Although operational practice has shown that the papillary patterns on our hands and feet are extremely stable and subject to limited changes (apart from scars), the study provides empirical and statistical evidence,” said Champod.
“This study is a monumental achievement and one that will benefit forensic science teams worldwide,” Greg Michaud, director of the Forensic Science Division, Michigan State Police, said.
The study was published in the journal PNAS.