Burglary Charge Based Only on a Fingerprints Evidence Acquittal
In C.E. v. State, 665 So. 2d 1097, 1098 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996), Florida court reversed a conviction based solely on fingerprint evidence found on a vehicle which had been burglarized.
Circumstantial evidence may support a conviction only if it is consistent with guilt and inconsistent with any reasonable hypothesis of innocence. State v. Law, 559 So. 2d 187, 188 (Fla. 1989).
Where fingerprint evidence found at the scene is relied upon to establish identity, the evidence must be such that the print could have been made only when the crime was committed. Tirko v. State, 138 So. 2d 388, 389 (Fla. 4th DCA), cert. denied, 303 So. 2d 29 (Fla. 1974);
see also Williams v. State, 247 So. 2d 425, 426 (Fla. 1971)(fingerprint evidence showed only that defendant had been at crime scene, not when he was there).
If the state fails to show that the fingerprints could only have been made at the time the crime was committed, the defendant is entitled to a judgment of acquittal.
In C.E., the vehicle was a police crime scene van which, when parked, was in a place accessible to the public. In addition, it was dispatched throughout the county on a daily basis. the defendant's fingerprints were only on the exterior of a window which had been broken in the burglary.
Defendant's hypothesis of innocence in C.E. was that he could have innocently leaned against the van on another occasion when the vehicle was out and about, and the state did not prove that his prints were made at the time the crime was committed.