The Current Status of Shoeprint Identification in China

March 6, 2024

The current status of shoeprint identification in China

1.  The inspection technology of shoeprint is synchronized with global trends. The inspection technology of shoeprints involves careful identification of footwear impressions, footprints, and sock-clad footprints. This technology not only has a very mature theoretical foundation but also keeps pace with the world level in China. Currently, in the inspection technology of shoeprints, China can already mastered the identification of which pair of shoes left the footwear impressions at a crime scene. However, this technologyhas two drawbacks:

(1) It can only determine the relationship between footwear impressions and shoes, but further investigation is needed to determine the relationship between shoes and individuals.

(2) The inspection of footwear impressions relies on shoes. Once the suspect discards the shoes after committing the crimeor if the investigation period is too long, the basic conditions for inspection are lost, which greatly inhibits the usefulness of footwear impressions.

2. Unique technology from step tracking to person identification. From the early days of China, step tracking technology has gradually evolved into the current shoeprint person unique identification technology. This technology can identify individuals based on the gait characteristics reflected by the walking manner of a person's two feet and the specific characteristics of individual footwear impressions in a series of footwear impressions, to determine whether the characteristics of the crime scene footwear impressions are consistent with those of a person. Unfortunately, this inspection technology is relatively immature and be properly used by experienced officers. Although this inspection technology has helped solve many cases, it is undeniable that there have been many lessons from failures as well.

3. The technology of analyzing person characteristics through footwear impressions is world-leading. Through footwear impressions, one can analyze a person's personal characteristics, including age, height, body shape, occupation, etc. In this regard, China is at a relatively leading level internationally, and through this technology, it has provided significant assistance in solving many cases.

Shoeprint identification

Two aspects of the Chinese shoeprint identification questioned in the court

1. The source of shoeprint evidence:

Shoeprint evidence is the evidence extracted from the crime scene that can prove that the suspect has been to the crime scene and committed the crime. It is used to determine whether the shoeprints/footprints used for identification originated from the crime scene and whether they were left at the scene of the crime. The legality and validity of extracting samples of shoeprints and the required shoes and socks from the same suspect for the same identification, whether the obtained shoes and socks belong to the suspect, and whether there has been any substitution during the identification process are all in question.

2. Whether the identification standards are scientific and whether there are probability issues, which means that the defense can refute the conclusions made by technical personnel from the perspective of identification quality.

In terms of footwear impression image identification, it is relatively easy to identify which type of shoe forms the footwear impression. However, for the identification of the same person wearing different types of shoes, or when a shoe has changed its characteristics due to prolonged use, personal experience of criminal technical personnel is the main factor in such identification. Because it is subjective experience rather than objective evidence, defense lawyers and judges may question whether the identification personnel have the right to identify, and whether the identification conclusionis based on scientific and valid criteria. At the same time, footwear impression identification conclusions should not involve probabilities. There are only two standards for the conclusion: yes or no. Unlike DNA identification,which may present probabilistic conclusions.