Defense Date


Document Type

Directed Research Project

First Advisor

Dr. Tal Simmons, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Janine Sodano, M.S.

Third Advisor

Dr. D'Arcy Mays, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Stephanie Walcott, M.S.


Fingerprints are used as a means of identification, but there are no established methodologies to determine time since deposition of latent fingerprints by visual means alone. This research considered the influence of age and sex on the quality of recovered latent prints from lit and unlit lightbulbs from 1 to 10 days, using accumulated degree hours (ADH) to account for both heat and time simultaneously. Two male and two female donors (one of each aged40 years) were used. A thermal imaging camera was used to monitor the lightbulbs top and middle regions, which were significantly different (p≤0.05) for the experimental and control lightbulbs. The recovered impressions were evaluated using a quality score scale from 0-5. After studying the quality scores over days lit and ADH, we found they started with good quality, decreased, remained constant and then began to randomly fluctuate. The analysis of covariance for both the lit and unlit lightbulbs showed that sex (p≤0.001) and experimental versus control lightbulbs (p≤0.001) may have an influence on the latent print quality, but not ADH (p≤0.281) or age (p≤0.242). This research supports the long-held conviction of latent print examiners that the age of a latent print cannot be determined by visual assessment alone. More research is still needed to provide a broader understanding of how latent fingerprints are affected by both environmental conditions and donor variability. These factors can be crucial in court for the deliberation of criminal cases relying on impression evidence.


© The Author(s)

Is Part Of

VCU Master of Science in Forensic Science Directed Research Projects

Date of Submission


Available for download on Thursday, November 18, 2021


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