Bitten by the truth: Why bite mark evidence is flawed

by | Nov 17, 2022 | Criminal Defense

Unreliable bitemark identification has led to the exoneration of more than two dozen people arrested in the U.S. Yet, surprisingly, prosecutors in Georgia still use it in court as evidence. Experts have largely discredited bite marks because of a number of issues.

How bite marks evidence came to be

Bite mark evidence relies on three core assumptions: that teeth are unique like fingerprints, that skin heals predictably and that bite marks left in the skin can be accurately matched to a specific set of teeth. People came to believe these assumptions because some studies done in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s supported them.

However, more recent research has debunked all three of these assumptions. For example, a 2009 study found that there is “no scientific basis” for the uniqueness of teeth. Another study found that skin heals in a variety of ways, making it difficult to predict how a bite mark will look after an injury. And finally, researchers have consistently found that experts have difficulty matching bite marks to teeth. In fact, one study showed that even dental experts couldn’t agree on who left a given bite mark.

Reasons why Georgia courts still use this evidence

For one, some prosecutors and law enforcement officers still believe in the validity of bite mark evidence, even though the science says otherwise. There’s also a lack of training on how to properly collect and interpret bite mark evidence. Finally, the state still continues to use outdated and flawed laws to make decisions.

Fighting bite mark evidence in court

If law enforcement officers arrested you and are using bite mark evidence as the basis for your charges, you could challenge your conviction in court. You or your criminal defense attorney can do this by showing that:

• The science behind bite mark identification is flawed
• The prosecution’s experts are not properly qualified
• The bite mark evidence was collected or interpreted incorrectly
• The evidence does not prove you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt

While it doesn’t make sense for the state to continue using this type of evidence, unfortunately, judges still do. The good news, however, is that you have options backed up by science to dispute your charges in court.