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G o o d   M o r n i n g !
Monday, February 21, 2005

The purpose of the Detail is to help keep you informed of the current state of affairs in the latent print community, to provide an avenue to circulate original fingerprint-related articles, and to announce important events as they happen in our field.

Breaking NEWz you can UzE...
compiled by Jon Stimac

Fingerprint System Increases Arrests LOS ANGELES TIMES, CA - Feb 20, 2005 ...installed fingerprinting system identifies criminals among the 1 million illegal migrants apprehended annually...

Art Mystery, da Vinci's Fingerprint SEATTLE TIMES, WA - Feb 20, 2005 ...a newly discovered fingerprint, along with stylistic similarities, are making experts think of da Vinci...

Accord Reached on Fingerprint Act   OBSERVER REPORTER, JAMAICA - Feb 18, 2005 ...agreement met between Jamaica's government and opposition on proposals for the Fingerprint (Amendment) Act...

Fingerprints Now Scanned   POST SEARCHLIGHT, GA  - FEB 15, 2005  ...a new way of taking fingerprints at the county jail may help the Sheriff’s Department improve safety while saving time and money,...


SWGFAST met the week before last and addressed several important topics. One of the topics was a recent letter from Ralph M. Keaton to ASCLD/LAB accredited forensic laboratories regarding latent print documentation. Concerns were brought forward during the SWGFAST meeting by attendees as well as other non-SWGFAST members. The concern centered around the implications of the clarification letter (below) and the amount of effort necessary to achieve the documentation required by ASCLD/LAB, according to certain interpretations of the letter. The level of concern was such that a meeting was held during the week with an ASCLD/LAB representative and re-clarification was provided from SWGFAST to ASCLD/LAB on this issue. It is not unreasonable for agencies to utilize the grace period mentioned below and to potentially expect additional clarification from ASCLD/LAB to be forthcoming in the near future. The January letter appears below, and re-clarification will be distributed in the Detail if/as soon as it becomes available.

ASCLD/LAB Latent Print Examinations Documentation Requirements

January, 2005

The ASCLD/LAB Board recently became aware that there is significant misunderstanding amongst accredited and applicant laboratories concerning requirements for examination documentation in the latent print discipline. In an effort to clarify expectations, ASCLD/LAB sought and received input from respected representatives of the latent print community on the topic. The attached document was generated as a result of that input and after much deliberation by the Board.

The requirements for latent print examination documentation as outlined (below) will become effective immediately and all laboratories inspected hereafter will be inspected to this standard. However, there will be a grace period until July 1, 2005, during which a laboratory which does not meet the outlined requirements for latent print examination documentation may satisfy the requirements, when inspected, by presenting a plan for bringing the laboratory into compliance. Effective July 1, 2005, all laboratories must be in compliance with these requirements as outlined.


Ralph M. Keaton
Executive Director
(919) 773-2600

Minimum Latent Print Examination Documentation

The following document is intended to address and clarify the extent of the examination documentation required by ASCLD/LAB for latent print examinations. ASCLD/LAB has other requirements for examination documentation which are not addressed in this document. Those requirements are still applicable.

For another competent examiner or supervisor to evaluate what was done and to interpret the data, examination documentation must include the following as part of the case record.

1) All Examination Activities

Another competent examiner should be able to determine from the examiners' notations each examination activity conducted, the sequence of those activities and the results of the activities. The activities can include the development techniques applied, controls or reagent checks used in development techniques, photography/digital imaging used, any AFIS searches conducted, known exemplar capture and/or retrieval, comparisons conducted and conclusions reached.

It is not required that the examination documentation provide a detailed description of the thought process involved in the analysis, comparison or evaluation. However, examination documentation must include which prints were analyzed, compared, evaluated and conclusions reached. Examination documentation must also acknowledge the existence and disposition of any captured latent prints which were not analyzed, compared or evaluated.

If known exemplars are used in the examination, the original or reproduction suitable for comparison of the known exemplar must be retained as part of the case record. When the laboratory cannot ensure that an AFIS will maintain the actual data used and relied upon in the examination, the laboratory must maintain an image of the actual data in its case record.

2) Latent Print Lifts and/or Photographs/Digital Images of the Latent Prints

Without the images of the latent prints another competent examiner cannot evaluate what was done or interpret the data. Narrative descriptions, diagrams and drawings of latent prints alone are insufficient. While it is permissible to keep all prints, ASCLD/LAB does not require that prints or photographs/digital images of latent prints which have no value for comparison be maintained in the case record. Neither does ASCLD/LAB require that prints or photographs/digital images of latent prints which are of value for comparison be maintained in the case record if the prints are not examined or compared.

Digital images of latent prints electronically stored may be included as examination documentation in the case record, as defined by laboratory policy, as long as the media has the appropriate security to ensure that the images remain unchanged.

3) Annotations on Original Evidence or on Photographs/Digital Images that Correlate to Written Notes

When annotations are made on latent print lifts and/or photographs/digital images of latent prints, the lifts and/or photographs/digital images with the annotations or a copy thereof must be retained as examination documentation.

For those agencies which maintain custody and control of latent print evidence, the laboratory may, by policy, define latent print lifts and photographs/digital images with annotations, to be both evidence and examination documentation and be included as part of the case record. Annotations may include, but are not limited to, designations of latent prints of value, markings regarding an identification, charting, etc.

When laboratory policy and procedure allows latent print evidence to also serve as examination documentation, the laboratory must handle the latent prints in a manner that ASCLD/LAB's requirements for evidence are met.


Some critical thinking questions:

1) Does an evaluation of what was done, how it was done, and an interpretation of the data require comparison quality latent print images? If not, what quality would suffice? In what situations would you rather capture an image versus write extensive notations?

2) In number 1 of Mr. Keaton's letter, it is mentioned that "...examination documentation must include which prints were analyzed, compared, evaluated and conclusions reached" and later, that "If known exemplars are used in the examination, the original or reproduction suitable for comparison of the known exemplar must be retained as part of the case record." Do you interpret "conclusion reached" to include exclusions? Would you consider this wording to indicate that you are required to keep images of every AFIS comparison you conduct, including both Idents and Exclusions? Do you feel this is practical or possible to accomplish?

3) What do you consider "annotations" on lifts? Is it practical for non-retaining agencies (state crime laboratories, etc.) to capture all annotations made on items of evidence?


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Added one new Smiley to the Smiley Files (and a really good one at that!)


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Have a GREAT week!