Introduction to Fingerprint Identification


Fingerprint Identification is the method of identification using the impressions made by the minute ridge formations or patterns found on the fingertips. No two persons have exactly the same arrangement of ridge patterns, and the patterns of any one individual remain unchanged throughout life. Fingerprints offer an infalible means of personal identification. Other personal characteristics may change, but fingerprints do not.

Fingerprints can be recorded on a standard fingerprint card or can be recorded digitally and transmitted electronically to the FBI for comparison. By comparing fingerprints at the scene of a crime with the fingerprint record of suspected persons, officials can establish absolute proof of the presence of identity of a person.

Fingerprint Pattern Type


In 1924 the identification division fo the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was established to provide one central repository of fingerprints. When the identification division was established, its purpose was to provide a central repository of criminal identification data for law enforcement agencies throughout the Nation. However in 1933 the United States Civil Service Commission (now known as the Office of Personnel Management) turned the fingerprints of more than 140,000 government employees and applicants over to the FBI. Therefore a Civil Identification Section was established, These innovations marked the initiation fo the FBI's Civil File, which was destined to dwarf the criminal files in size. In 1992 the Identification Division was re-established as the Criminal Justice Information Services Division (CJIS).

The CJIS Division - Identification and Invesitgative Services Section

Each day approximately 7000 new individual records are added to the files.

The New Age of Electronic Fingerprint Identification

Fingerprints are now processed through the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. The fingerprints are submitted electronically or by mail, processed on the IAFIS, and a response is returned to the contributing agency within two hours or less for electronic criminal fingerprint submissions and twenty-four hours or less for electronic civil fingerprint submissions. Fingerprint processing has been reduced from weeks and months to hours and minutes with IAFIS.

This document is published by the FBI at

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