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Researchers developing fingerprint test for cocaine

California residents may be interested in learning about a new type of drug test for cocaine that involves fingerprints. Reportedly, the test works through an analysis of chemicals left behind in the ridges of a person's fingertips when they have used cocaine.

The new drug-testing technique, recently reported in the journal Analyst, uses mass spectrometry to find metabolites produced by the body when cocaine is broken down. Because these trace chemicals are byproducts of metabolism, the researchers say that the test would not be positive if someone simply touched the drug.

The researchers tout the new drug testing technique as a non-invasive alternative to traditional blood and saliva testing. They believe that the new technique should be available for use as a portable test by law enforcement officers within a decade. They also indicate that it is safer than testing bodily fluids and that it could not be faked. The person's identity would be captured in the finger ridge detail containing the trace chemicals in the fingerprint itself.

Even after a test is developed, it does not mean that results from it will be admissible in drug possession cases. Courts only allow testing results in such cases if the method used is one that is generally accepted by the scientific community and that is considered reliable. It can take years for such reliability to be achieved for new types of scientific tests. There may also be an issue if a law enforcement officer demands a fingerprint from a person who has not been charged with a crime simply for testing purposes. People who are facing drug charges may benefit by seeking the help of a criminal defense attorney. If testing was used in their case, the attorney may be able to challenge the manner in which the testing was performed or even the test itself.

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