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Report No. 87

V. Fingerprints and photographs

It appears that in the United States the compulsory taking of fingerprints and photographs from persons under arrest is a common practice1.

Non-testimonial compulsion in U.S.A.- As already stated, what the constitution prohibits is physical or moral compulsion to extort communications from him, and not an exhibition of his body as evidence (when such evidence may be material)2. Therefore, no constitutional protection exists against compulsion to submit to giving fingerprints, photographing, or measurements, to write or to speak for identification, to appear in court, to stand, to assume a stance, to walk, or to make a particular gesture. Also, there is in the United States (from the constitutional point of view) no protection against requiring the accused persons to adopt a particular stance3 or to give a specimen of his voice4.

Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 Back

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