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Is It Illegal to Change or Alter Your Fingerprints?

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

Despite how rare it actually is that a criminal conviction will be based upon a fingerprint, thanks to the popularity of televised cop dramas, some would-be criminals go to extreme lengths to avoid fingerprint detection. Over the last few decades, numerous stories have emerged of criminals literally cutting and burning off their fingerprints. Shockingly, even plastic surgeons are being asked to help alter fingerprints.

Technically there is no law against a person altering or changing their fingerprints. However, other laws may be able to use an altered print as evidence for another crime. Also, it should be noted that changing a fingerprint does not remove a fingerprint. So after a fingerprint has been altered, a person will continue to leave fingerprints. If a person has changed their fingerprints, it is likely that any prints they leave will be more identifiable than they were before.

Additionally, fingerprints cover a person's entire finger and palm, and those with altered fingerprints may find themselves getting their full hand "fingerprinted." Simply the edges of a person's fingerprint, if not completely changed, can lead to a positive identification.

Altered Fingerprints Are Evidence and Can Be Used Against You

A person with altered finger prints will have a difficult time proving that they are innocent of any crime they get charged with. It stands to reason that a person who has altered their fingerprints knew either in advance, or after the fact, that their fingerprints could be used against them. Nothing is more damning than clear attempts to evade arrest.

Whereas a normal fingerprint identification might require 15 or more matching data points, if a defendant has altered their prints after the fact, a jury or other fact-finder might be more lax when it comes to the number of data points needed to make a positive identification.

Even if altering fingerprints was a perfect plan, there's always the issue of DNA evidence, which has been show to be roughly 95 percent accurate.

Surgeons Should Be Cautious

Surgeons and medical professionals should be extra cautious if a person asks for help to change their prints. A few years back, a surgeon was arrested on conspiracy charges for altering an illegal immigrants fingerprints so that they could avoid deportation.

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