Introduction to Latent Prints

Intro to Latent Prints
Introduction to Latent Prints
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Resources
Recorded on: 2018-05-15
Unit 1 Presentation Materials: Introduction to Latent Prints
Unit 2 Recording: Introduction to Latent Prints
Unit 3 Webinar Notes: Introduction to Latent Prints

The use of fingerprints as a means for personal identification is a process that has been utilized for more than a century. It is also one of the most useful tools that forensic science have relied on since its inception. To provide an overview of the history, process, principles, and other areas related to latent prints, Andrew Reitanauer joins today’s webinar to present an introduction to the science of fingerprints.

Andrew is the owner of Delta Forensics and a Certified Senior Crime Scene Analyst (CSCSA) through the International Association for Identification (IAI). His prolific career includes 13 years as a Latent Print Examiner and Crime Scene Responder. He also served as a Technical Leader and Section Supervisor within the Forensic Laboratory System. He is active in three IAI Divisions with leadership roles for the IAI’s New York Division. He educates people on the field of forensic sciences by serving as a primary trainer for new examiners and outside agencies, teaching forensic science at the collegiate level, presenting as a key resource on numerous conferences and seminars, and writing articles focused on Latent Print Examination, Forensic Photography and Administrative Leadership in forensic science.


Some of the specific subjects tackled in this course are:

  • The Locard’s Exchange principle which served as the foundation of investigatory and forensic disciplines.
  • The types of evidence available, zeroing in on physical evidence and forensic science.
  • A history of how fingerprinting was used in in the early ages as an identification mark, and how it evolved into a science from the late 1800s.
  • The system of Bertillonage which was replaced by fingerprinting as a system of personal identification.
  • What a fingerprint and friction ridge is and what they’re made of.
  • Qualities that allows fingerprints to determine individuality, its limitations, and the result of comparisons.
  • The two fundamental principles of fingerprints:
    • Uniqueness which makes it an effective personal identification marker, and how unique fingerprints are created during fetal development
    • Permanence which allows fingerprints to remain the same throughout one’s life and the instances when it may change due to injury/scarring
  • The three types of fingerprints:
    • Latent fingerprints which are not easily seen by the naked eye and the processes that are done so they may be collected
    • Patent fingerprints that are easily visible as a result of material transfer (e.g., ink, paint, etc.)
    • Plastic fingerprints which are impressed into a soft material that gives it a 3D quality which may be collected through casting
  • Factors that affect the quality of fingerprints and how each of these contributes to preservation or obliteration of the fingerprints.
  • The Fingerprint Class Characteristics that are considered in fingerprint examination:
    • Level 1 details that classify the friction ridges into 3 major patterns: loops, whorls, and arches
    • Level 2 details that takes a closer look at the smaller features present
    • Level 3 details that consider the quality of the print and each ridge’s structures and the presence of sweat pores.
  • The application of the science of fingerprints on crime scenes that delves with the surfaces where prints may be recovered, the quantity-quality dynamics, and its importance for comparison and arriving at a conclusion.
  • Poll questions looked at:
    • The attendees’ involvement in the process of fingerprinting
    • Their perception of the amount of fingerprint recovered from firearms
    • What they think is the most common fingerprint pattern
  • During the Q&A segment, Andrew clarified areas that the participants raised relating to:
    • Careers in forensic science and fingerprint analysis
    • The various types of blood reagents to develop impressions
    • Andrew’s preferred methods in preserving fingerprints
    • Lifting fingerprints from cartridge cases
    • Classifying fingerprints as a match
    • The effects of antibacterial wipes to fingerprints
    • Analysts’ ability to reconstruct distortions in the fingerprints
    • Prioritization of evidence for examination
Additional Resources
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