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Development of Latent Fingerprints on Fired Brass Cartridge Cases: Impact of Latent Print Development Using Acidified Hydrogen Peroxide on Forensic Firearm and Toolmark Examinations

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Identification Volume: 63 Issue: 4 Dated: July - August 2013 Pages: 359-368
Henry J. Swofford; Lomiesha S. Paul; Shauna M. Steffan; Dana Bonar
Date Published
August 2013
10 pages
The present study evaluates the efficacy of AHP (acidified hydrogen peroxide) as a processing technique for developing latent prints on brass cartridge cases after they have been subjected to the firing, the time required for development, and whether AHP processing negatively interferes with firearms examinations.
Latent fingerprints developed on fired cartridge cases may serve as key pieces of evidence during forensic investigations. The success of developing latent fingerprints on fired cartridge cases, however, has been a challenge for investigators because of the nature of the firing process. Fingerprints that are deposited on cartridges prior to or while loading a weapon are likely to be destroyed by the extreme temperatures and abrasive forces caused by the firing process. Despite these odds, research has demonstrated that fingerprints, on occasion, do survive the firing process. The majority of previous research has focused on identifying various techniques to develop latent fingerprints; very little research has evaluated the down-range effects of the development techniques to forensic firearm examinations. This is of particular interest with AHP, because it is an irreversible reaction having the potential to corrode the brass and negatively interfere with the various toolmarks linking that cartridge case back to the weapon from which it was fired. The results of the current study suggest the following recommendations: (1) AHP is an effective processing technique, but should be applied after cyanoacrylate ester fuming followed by dye staining with rhodamine 6G. (2) Ridge detail, if present, can be expected to develop within 75 seconds of processing. (3) AHP processing appears to have a noticeable effect to firearms examination in as little as 20 seconds. Therefore, coordination should be made between latent print examiners, firearms examiners, and investigators to determine the best course of action on a case by case basis. (Published Abstract)