Are fingerprints really unique?

Everyday question | Is EVERY fingerprint unique?

Countless lines, mini-folds, bulges ...

Everyone has ten fingers, but no one is like the other. That is also the reason why criminology has been using this individual characteristic of a person for exactly 125 years to convict perpetrators. But is EVERY fingerprint really unique?

Yes, it really is. The tiny so-called papillary lines on the fingers and the inner surfaces of the hands are not the same in any person. By the way, the specialist term in forensic science for convicting the perpetrator by fingerprint is called dactyloscopy.

Before this method was developed, the police had to struggle with other body characteristics, such as the length of forearms or the distance between the eyes. But none of them, according to criminologists, is as individual as the fingerprint.

Does the fingerprint also differ between twins?

Yes, even with identical twins, the fine lines that give people a firm grip on their hands and feet are different. They develop in the womb - according to a random principle - and remain the same throughout life.

DNA vs. fingerprint

The Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) still ascribes “very great importance” to the method of capturing and comparing fingerprints. Reason: It is fast, safe and inexpensive and therefore has several major advantages over other methods, say the experts from the BKA.

Chief Inspector Felix Moser says that the comparison of fingerprints is also superior to that of DNA in certain aspects: A cigarette with a DNA trace may have been brought to a crime scene by accident or deliberately, a fingerprint not. "

But this method also has its limits: “We cannot say when and under what circumstances a person left a fingerprint,” says Moser. There have been repeated attempts to determine the age of the prints, says the chief inspector. So far, however, these have remained unsuccessful. In many criminal cases, however, that is exactly what could lead to a breakthrough.