• Question: How much of a fingerprint do you need to identify it?

    Asked by dean1fed to Amy on 12 Apr 2024.
    • Photo: Amy Rattenbury

      Amy Rattenbury answered on 12 Apr 2024:

      To identify a fingerprint, you don’t need the entire print. Even a partial fingerprint can be useful. Generally, forensic experts look for a section of the fingerprint that contains unique features, known as minutiae. These features include things like ridges, ending points, and bifurcations (where a ridge splits into two).

      Although there’s no specific number you are looking for, the key is having enough clear minutiae to compare against another fingerprint in a database or against a print collected from a crime scene. If the partial print has enough of these unique details, and they match another print with a high degree of certainty, then an identification can be made. This means even a small but clear portion of a fingerprint can be enough to identify someone or link them to a location.