Can Bite Marks be Used as Evidence?
Most criminal proceedings reach a conclusion based on indisputable evidence. Evidence comes in different forms, including DNA and bite marks.
The use of bite-marks as evidence
Throughout a criminal trial expert witnesses can be called upon to testify if the defendant left any teeth marks or lacerations on his or her victim. The expert witnesses who are called upon are referred to as forensic odontologists. They decide if there is any similarity between the real teeth of the defendant and the pattern of the bite mark on the victim. They use a mold of the teeth of the defendant to draw the comparison. If this match turns out to be positive, the court will consider that teeth marks were caused by the defendant.
It has been quite widespread in courts for decisions to be made based on an odontologist’s teeth mark results. It appears that this evidence has proved to be not so reliable in at least 24 wrong convictions in court.
Ban called for bite mark evidence
This call is backed by the forensic science community, following a study carried out by the Forensic Science Commission in Texas over a six month period which found the method used for bite marks was far from acceptable based on current forensic standards.
Additionally, the study found:
ï that one set of teeth can make different patterns of teeth wounds; and
ï the pattern of the teeth wound changes it shape, due to the human skin’s malleability.
One of the revelations in the study was that forensic dentists could not agree if a bite mark was actually made by a human. Another study published by the American Board of Forensic Odontology found that some of the more experienced practitioners could not be sure that some marks they were shown were actually bite marks.
Results revealed by a San Antonio professor found that between 85 and 90 percent of teeth marks observed did not have acceptable detail to support a useful comparison to a defendant’s teeth. Due to these findings, the Texas Commission came out with a recommendation to ban bite mark testimonies until forensic dentists were able to identify bite marks and where they originated from accurately.
What the ban means in the U.S.
So far, Texas is the only state putting forward a clear stance banning bite mark testimonies. There is a clear indication that the state’s suggestion is going to become more important in the years to come as states over time, including Florida, will see that there are shortfalls in using this method to convict criminals.
If you live in Florida and you believe you have been unfairly convicted on the basis of bite mark evidence you should talk to Miami criminal defense attorney, Albert Quirantes Esq., at 305-644-1800.
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For over 30 years, Miami criminal defense attorney Albert M. Quirantes has been aggressively and zealously defending the rights of those accused of felony and misdemeanor crimesthroughout South Florida. With his dedicated team, reasonable legal fees, and a well-earned reputation for challenging prosecutors at every turn, he has protected over 8,000 clients during some of the roughest times of their lives.
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