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Scientists develop cocaine test using fingerprints


New Jersey residents are likely aware that an individual's drug and alcohol use may be established by performing chemical tests on a blood, saliva, urine or hair sample, but they may be surprised to learn about a new form of drug test using fingerprints developed by scientists in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. The findings of these researchers were published in May 2015 in a scientific journal.

In the study, the researchers show how cocaine use can be detected in fingerprints using a process known as ambient mass spectrometry. The body releases methylecgonine and benzoylecgonine after the drug has been consumed, and the newly developed test is able to detect traces of these chemicals in fingerprints. The researchers say that the test is able to differentiate between people who have actually used the drug and those who may simply have come into contact with it. This is because the chemicals detected are only produced when cocaine is metabolized within the body.

The scientists behind the research say that portable fingerprint testing kits could be available to law enforcement agencies within a decade. The new test is more hygienic and less invasive than blood, urine or saliva tests, and researchers say that the results of fingerprint tests will be more reliable than traditional testing methods becasue the results are impossible to conceal or fake.

While any scientific development that makes drug testing more accurate should be welcomed, such technology should only be used within the boundaries established by the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment provides protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, and a criminal defense attorney may seek to have evidence such as fingerprint drug tests ruled inadmissible when these protections have not been observed.

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