NMDPS Forensic Laboratories Bureau

Latent Print Unit

The Department of Public Safety (DPS) ForLatent Print Examensic Laboratory Bureau currently has established Latent Print Units located in the Santa Fe and Las Cruces Forensic Laboratories. Additionally, the Santa Fe Latent Print Unit also performs footwear and tire track analysis for the entire State of New Mexico.


The Latent Print examiners apply scientific means to process evidence from criminal investigations, for the presence of latent (invisible) and patent (visible) finger and palm prints. Prints are developed and/or enhanced using various powders, chemical, and illumination techniques. These prints are then visually compared to known inked fingerprints of a suspect or victim, or entered into the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, (AFIS).

Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS)

AFIS is a computer database which enables unidentified latent prints, recovered from crime scenes or evidence, to be compared with over 700,000 fingerprint or palm print records from known individuals within the database. By successfully identifying the source of a print or linking prints between crimes, important investigation information can be developed.

Additional Services

Latent Print examiners provide expert testimony regarding their findings and opinions, in courts throughout the state of New Mexico. The Latent Print Unit also provides instructions regarding collection and preservation of latent print evidence for NMSP and Basic Training academies, and provides additional technical assistance to law enforcement agencies as requested.

Helpful Hints

  • ┬áNever package items of evidence in plastic. Always use paper bags or cardboard boxes.
  • Always collect elimination prints and/or suspect standards (finger and palm), at the time of arrest.
  • If your intent is to submit evidence to the laboratory for latent print analysis, we suggest that you not process the evidence prior to submission, or at least seek advice on how to properly process the item(s).