Latent Print Certification FAQs

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1) I have recently obtained my college degree and I am interested in taking the certification test. Am I eligible?

The Latent Print Certification program was designed in 1977 to certify individuals who are currently working the in the field of latent prints. The requirements stipulate an examiner to have at least two years experience in latent print matters.

2) What is the cost for applying for certification and how often do I need to re-certify?

The current fee for applying is $300.00 for IAI members ($400.00 for non-members), and must accompany the application. The same fee of $300.00 for IAI members ($400.00 for non-members), applies to recertification and takes place every five (5) years. All fees are non-refundable.

3) Can my certification fee or recertification fee be paid by credit card?

Yes it can. The number simply needs to be provided with the application and the fee will be processed by the IAI’s main office and not by the specific certifying body.

4) Do you have to do latent print examination as your full time job to meet the experience requirement? Does any of your crime scene or ten print work count?

Each situation will depend on its own merits. You can contact the LPCB Secretary for clarification to discuss further. However, for the benefit of the comparison part of the test, it is strongly recommended that you are conducting latent print comparisons on a regular basis. This is the best preparation you can give yourself.

5) Does a letter of endorsement have to come from another certified latent print examiner?

No. The Certification Operations Program Manual states that a letter of endorsement can come from the applicant’s Supervisor or a person certified at an equal or higher level and/or from two professional peers.

6) Once I apply for certification, how long does it take before I take the test?

Much of the time frame depends on how soon the state committees review and approve for the applicant to take the test. This typically varies among state committees. In addition, the name of the applicant will need to be published in the JFI’s newsletter Identification News before an applicant becomes certified. (The Operations Manual states an applicant can go ahead and test but cannot be awarded certification until their name is published.)

7) Why is the test timed?

All professional licensing tests are "timed" tests. Because our tests are proctored, we have to set a "time limit" because it would be difficult to find proctors if they had no idea of how long someone would be taking the exam.

8) Are my test results made public?

The only time the test results can be made public is in the case of an official court subpoena. In this case, any subpoena for results would first be discussed with the IAI Legal Counsel.

9) If I failed the test once before, can I retake the test again?

Yes. If you failed the test for any reason other than an erroneous conclusion, you can retake it after six months. If you made an erroneous conclusion (ID or exclusion), you must wait at least one year before you can reapply. In this case, it is important to know that you will have to retake all three sections (Written, Pattern Interpretation and the Comparison portion).

Important note: You will need to submit a new application with all attachments plus whatever fee is in effect at that time. This fee must be included with all applications, regardless of whether the test (or any part of the test) has been taken previously.

10) What if I’m not able to acquire the required number of credits for recertification?

If you are not able to acquire the requisite number of credits, recertification will not be granted. If you have any concerns, you may also wish to contact the LPCB Secretary for further information. A good idea would be to appraise your agency of the requirements of recertification in advance, so they may adequately plan for your individual training needs.

11) How do you handle it in court if you don't pass because you did not complete the test?

If you have an opportunity to meet with the prosecutor before trial, you can tell them you are not certified and explain why, so if you are asked on cross-examination, the prosecutor will be ready to address it in rebuttal. You can then explain to the jury it was because you did not complete the test within the time limit given. The certification test is a "timed" exam and in real case work, time constraints are not usually an issue. If necessary, you can compare it to the bar exam.

12) What if I made an erroneous ID on my test? How do I explain that to a court?

You will have only received notification that you did not pass the test. Whether at any point leading up to court you voluntarily choose to share the exact reason why is up to you. However, if you’re asked in court why you failed the test, you will have to answer honestly and it’ll be up to the court to decide whether you would be qualified to give evidence in your case. A good suggestion would be to inform your prosecutor in advance of the trial, so they can be prepared should this come out at trial.

13) What if I make an erroneous ID during my career?

If you are certified, then you are ethically obligated to inform the Latent Print Certification Board. The result will be determined by a review board as to the status of your certification. Full details of the process can be found in the Certification Program Operations Manual (page 19).

14) I read in the paper that a certified examiner made an erroneous ID in a case. Why hasn’t their certification been suspended yet?

No formal investigation of a certified examiner can commence until the I.A.I President is in receipt of a signed written complaint with supporting documentation of the violation. The President may then convene a Professional Review Board (PRB) (IAI By-Laws, Article XVII, Section 17.01, a. 4) of subject matter experts to investigate the complaint. No action will be taken against a certified examiner until after the investigation is complete. For further information see here (Certification Program Operations Manual – Section X)

15) What if someone makes a complaint about me?

All complaints must be signed by the complainant and must be accompanied by supporting documentation. Each case is dealt with on its own merits and no action will be taken until the LPCB had determined that a violation has been established. If the complaint is not justified, no further action will be taken.

17) Will latent print certification ever become mandatory?

That will be for the judicial system to decide. While this is becoming a prerequisite for employment in more police agencies, it will remain a voluntary certification until the courts decide that fingerprint evidence will not be admissible unless the examiner testifying is certified.

18) How do I know that the quality of the latent prints on the test would be comparable to the standards used in my own agency?

All latent prints in the certification test have been deemed identifiable by the LPCB and not on any agency standards.

19) Are there any courses offered to prepare me for certification?

Yes. There are courses offered by Tri-Tech Forensics and Ron Smith and Associates (RS&A) which are designed to offer the student an idea of what to expect if they are ready to pursue certification. You can find their respective training course information here - Tri-Tech Certification Prep Training Course and RS&A LP Certification Prep Course brochure.