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Name: People v. Rivas
Case #: C072621
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 07/20/2015

Fingerprint evidence is not subject to a hearing under People v. Kelly (1976) 17 Cal.3d 24 and, in general, it is not so unreliable that it must be excluded. After Hernandez and Arechiga bought two 30-packs of beer at a convenience store, a group of Norteños attacked them, sliced Hernandez’s face open, and took the beer. Hernandez identified one of the attackers, Rivas. The other, Valadez, was identified by a latent palm print found on the window of Hernandez’s car. At trial, Valdez moved to exclude the fingerprint evidence. He argued that fingerprint identification evidence is subject to Kelly admissibility requirements and that it is no longer generally accepted by the scientific community. The trial court admitted the fingerprint evidence without a Kelly hearing and the jury convicted Valadez. He appealed. Held: Affirmed. When a party seeks to introduce evidence relying on a new scientific technique, Kelly requires the party to show general acceptance of the new technique in the relevant scientific community as well as the witness’s qualification as an expert and use of the correct scientific procedures in employing the technique. But fingerprint evidence is not subject to exclusion based on a challenge to its reliability because it is not a new scientific technique and it does not convey a misleading aura of certainty. (In re O.D. (2013) 221 Cal.App.4th 1001, 1006-1007.) The jury can observe the fingerprints and make its own comparison to determine for itself the similarities. Additionally, fingerprint evidence is, in general, sufficiently reliable to be admitted. (United States v. Herrera (7th Cir. 2013) 704 F.3d 480.) The foundation laid for the fingerprint evidence in this case was sufficient because the fingerprint analyst explained the process she used in comparing the prints and reaching her conclusion.