Dedicated Texas Criminal Defender

Do bite-mark analysts have to be specially trained?

On Behalf of | Nov 17, 2021 | Criminal defense

Interestingly, while those who do bite-mark analysis may have training in forensics or other fields, they don’t necessarily have any proficiency training or testing in bite-mark analysis itself. While it may be simple to see that someone’s body has bite marks present, it is not as simple to prove where those bites came from.

Often, it is a forensic dentist who will take a look at bite marks to try to compare them to the defendant’s teeth. The problem there is that even forensic dentists can make mistakes. Since there isn’t enough research to back forensic dentistry’s bite-mark analysis, it’s safe to say that the validity of bite-mark analysis is unproven at best.

Bite-mark analysis shouldn’t be used in court, some say

The Innocence Project states that around 25% of those exonerated since 1989 were convicted wrongfully based on the misuse of forensic evidence. Some of that evidence may have included bite marks.

In fact, the National Academy of Science released a paper in the early 2000s that stated that there were issues with erroneous results that meant that bite-mark analysis did lack validation. Sometimes, it could be hard to know if a bruise or mark was a bite mark, not a bite mark or a portion of a bite mark. In studies, participants didn’t always agree on what they were seeing. Those experts couldn’t agree in a controlled scenario, so it’s fair to ask the question of why this kind of science would be allowed in the courtroom.

What is the problem with bite-mark analysis?

It’s hard to identify the source of bite marks due to the fact that dentists are usually not looking at indents. Instead, they’re looking at the bruises left behind. Since blood diffuses under the skin, those marks are often inaccurate. Even the same person biting multiple people wouldn’t necessarily match, which is cause for concern. This is why any time that bite-mark analysis might be used in a case, it’s well worth your effort to ask to have that so-called evidence excluded from the trial. Bite-mark analysis just isn’t a proven science that can be relied on.