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Significance of Using Level 1 Detail in Latent Print Examinations

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Identification Volume: 53 Issue: 2 Dated: March/April 2003 Pages: 209-218
Jeffrey Saviano
Date Published
March 2003
This article examines the use of fingerprint patterns and the general flow of ridges in latent impressions as they pertain to the inclusion or exclusion of possible donors.
Ridge flow, or level 1 detail as explained by David Ashbaugh, is the key to narrowing the field of possible donors regarding certain friction ridge impressions found on evidence items or at crime scenes. Although lacking the power to individualize, level 1 detail can lead to the elimination of numerous inked fingerprint cards. All latent print examiners should be familiar with the scientific method of forensic examination called ACE-V (Analysis, Comparison, Evaluation, Verification). Using the ACE-V method, the latent print is first analyzed as to ridge flow (level 1 detail), deposition pressure, the substrate on which the latent impression was deposited, the matrix or actual substance deposited, the method of development or visualization, and the anatomical aspects of the area of friction ridge skin that left the impression. A similar analysis will be performed on the known prints, particularly in any areas of distortion due to deposition pressure. Following the analysis, the known prints are then compared to the latent print. The first thing compared is the level 1 detail (ridge flow) that was observed in the latent print. If that ridge flow or pattern cannot be found in the known prints, then the examiner can quickly move on to the evaluation phase of the examination and declare that the latent impression and the known impression did not come from the same source. The ease with which exclusions can occur, however, introduces an element of danger to a hasty examination. The examiner must consider all of the factors that can bear upon the pattern of the ridge flow observed in the latent and known prints, such as partial prints, smudged or smeared impressions, and lateral reversal of latent impressions. An examiner must consider all of these factors before determining whether ridge flows in the latent and known prints are a match. 3 figures and 3 references