KNOWN WRITING SAMPLES
The handwriting exemplar or “standard” as it is sometimes referred to is simply a known writing to which the questioned document can be compared. The ideal exemplar would be writing that conforms to the same format and context as the questioned material. It should contain the same written letters and words and should have been executed contemporaneously to the questioned material. This writing should be in the same writing style (cursive or hand printed) and be of significant amount to contain the majority of the author’s normal variations in his or her writing. In all cases, the amount of exemplar writing submitted to the examiner will have an effect as to the results of the examination. The more writing submitted, the higher the probability for a conclusive opinion. A minimum of 20 contemporaneous signatures is recommended.
Handwriting exemplars routinely fall into two categories – “normal course of business writing” and “specific request writing.”
Normal course of business writing is exactly as it is described. It is writing that is executed by someone when they had no idea that it would be used as a handwriting exemplar. This writing should be natural and include no attempts to disguise. The disadvantage to this writing is that it may not contain the format and context of the questioned writing. This type of writing which includes business records, checks and other personal communications and signatures. Other samples include affidavits, applications, bank signature cards, checks, diaries, drivers licenses, educational/vocational materials, legal documents, letters, real estate documents, receipts, etc.
Specific request writing is that writing which the subject is asked to write specific material, usually through dictation. At no time should the writer be allowed to view the questioned material. The disadvantage to this type of exemplar writing is that it does provide the writer the opportunity to alter or disguise his or her writing, as the writer is aware of the fact that it will be used as a handwriting exemplar.
In all cases, the quality of the documents submitted will have a direct effect on the final conclusions. Original documents are three-dimensional and provide a variety of subtle features that can be examined. Loss of detail is a typical issue in the examinations of photocopies, facsimile generated documents, pdf files or microfilm/microfiche images. Original documents provide the opportunity for the examiner to conduct ink and paper examinations, conduct examinations to locate indented writing (the presence of indented writings may provide useful information especially in business record examinations), conduct examinations that may indicate a signature was traced, or a document is a machine manipulation (part of the document has been removed from another document and placed on the document in question). In cases where the document is suspected of being a machine manipulation, any documents which may be suspected as the "model" from which the questioned document was created should be submitted to the examiner.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
What is a Forensic Document Examiner?
Forensic Document Examiners (handwriting analysts/experts/specialists) make scientific examinations, comparisons, and analyses of documents in order to (1) establish genuineness or non-genuineness, or to expose forgery, or to reveal alterations, additions or deletions, (2) identify or eliminate persons as the source of handwriting, (3) identify or eliminate the source of typewriting or other impression, marks, or relative evidence, and (4) write reports or give testimony, when needed, to aid the users of the examiner's services in understanding the examiner's findings. (ASTM and SWGDOC Published Standards)
Is "graphology" or "graphoanalysis" the same as forensic document examination?
Graphology or graphoanalysis attempts to predict character traits from handwriting examination. Forensic document examination involves the analysis and comparison of questioned documents with known material in order to identify, whenever possible, the author or origin of the questioned document. Some graphologists call themselves handwriting analysts or document examiners and are therefore confused with Forensic Document Examiners.
Is there a particular methodology used in forensic document examination?
The questioned and known signatures or handwritten material are examined and comparisons are made of the various writing features using established standards to determine similarities and/or differences in accordance with ASTM and SWGDOC published standards.
The examination procedure includes an analysis, comparison and evaluation process. During the analysis phase, the questioned and known writings submitted are analyzed to determine if they are suitable for comparison and if there are factors that limit the examination process. The individual writing features are identified for future comparison. The comparison phase is a side-by-side comparison of the various writing features present in the questioned and known writings. During the comparison process, an evaluation is conducted to determine the combined significance of the writing features present in the writings, considering both similarities and differences. The conclusion or finding is based upon the totality of the evidence within the examined writings.
Can forgeries be detected?
Forgeries cannot always be detected. Some are more easily detectable than others. The most common forgery is one done without the use of a signature (or model) of the known writer. This is usually the most easy to determine as it typically looks nothing like the signature of the known writer. Another method is when the forger uses a model signature and simulates or draws the signature. In this case, the forger is not capable of incorporating all of the subtle writing features of the true writer into this signature. The other type of forgery is a tracing. This is done by carefully tracing a genuine signature onto a document by using a window or a light box; or by heavily tracing a genuine signature onto a document beneath and then writing in the indentations. Signatures or portions of documents can also be transferred from one document to another. A "cut and paste" or a machine manipulation can be done using a copy machine or a graphics imaging program. The only way to conclusively determine if this has occurred is to locate the "model" signature or document that was used. However there may be indicators present that this was done.