Processing Guide for Developing Latent Prints

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Laboratory Division

The identification of latent print evidence is often key in solving a crime. A latent print results from the reproduction of friction ridges found on parts of the fingers, hands, and feet. These prints consist of a combination of different chemicals that originate from natural secretions, blood, and contaminants. Natural secretions mainly derive from the eccrine and sebaceous glands and contain known chemical components. Eccrine gland secretions from the fingers, hands, and feet are both organic and inorganic, but only organic materials are secreted from the sebaceous glands. Other contaminants found in prints result from contact with different materials in the environment. Latent prints can be found on all types of surfaces. In general, surfaces can be characterized as porous, nonporous, or semiporous. Understanding these characteristics will aid in processing an item for latent prints.

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The beginning of this manual is a list of processes and procedures for different surface types. Also included are processing sequences that specifically involve prints that are left in blood. Following these lists are details for each process that is currently implemented in the Latent Print Unit (LPU) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Laboratory.

Read/download the processing guide.

Read/download the processing guide.

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Article posted February 12, 2015