Forensic Consulting Service

  Kurt E. Kuhn

Services Provided

FINGERPRINT RELATED EXAMINATIONS


Processing Items for Fingerprints


Examination of Fingerprints


Review of Law Enforcement Fingerprint Examinations


Crime Scene Investigation and/or Report(s) Review


Review of Notary Log Entries

California Government Code 8206 (G) - If the document to be notarized is a deed, quitclaim deed, deed of trust, or other document affecting real property, or a power of attorney document, the notary public shall require the party signing the document to place his or her right thumbprint in the journal.


Reports and Testimony

Oral or written reports, affidavits, declarations, demonstrative charts/exhibits, pre-trial conference and expert testimony are provided as requested.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:


How can fingerprints be used?

Fingerprints can have several different applications in litigation.  The first is showing a person was in a particular place, such as a crime scene, or handled a particular item.  Other evidential values which are often overlooked are fingerprints on anonymous notes or other documents where someone denies a connection to or authorship of a particular document.  We have the ability to develop fingerprints which have been on paper for up to several years.

What is the basis for fingerprint identification?

The theory for the use of fingerprints and palmprints as a positive means of identification is based on two principles:
1.  They are "permanent" in that they are formed prior to birth (during the 13th week of fetal development) and remain the same throughout an individual's lifetime - with the exception of damage by scars or burns.  They are "unique" in that no two fingerprints or area of friction skin, made by different fingers or palmar/plantar areas,  have ever been observed to be the same (or are identical in the arrangement of their friction ridge features/minutiae - bifurcations, ridge endings, pore structure, etc.).


How long can fingerprints remain on an item?

Fingerprints can remain on an item for a long period of time, depending upon the type of item being submitted for examination and the previous storage/handling of the item.




QUESTIONED DOCUMENT/HANDWRITING RELATED EXAMINATIONS


Comparison of Signatures and Handwritten Material (Cursive and/or Hand Printing)


Examination of Documents for Additions, Alterations, Deletions, Erasures, Indented Writing or Page Substitution


Examination of Inks and Paper (Non-Destructive)


Examination of Obliterations on Documents


The Examination Process

Once the decision has been made to have documents examined, they should be handled as little as possible.  Excessive handling may result in the loss of critical evidence that is not visible to the naked eye.  Examinations should be conducted early in an investigation or litigation so that findings can be available as soon as possible.  This may assist in the determination of what additional examinations or investigations may need to be conducted.


Original documents are suggested for examination, however scientifically reliable opinions can be rendered when photocopies are submitted.  Facsimile generated documents are not recommended for examination.  Research has indicated that facsimile transmitted documents may undergo dimensional changes and distortion that complicate the examination process.  PDF files submitted for examination may have some limitations depending upon their quality.


A sufficient amount of known writing samples or exemplars are needed.  These samples should be "normal course of business writing" and should be as close as possible to the time that the questioned writing was prepared.  The more sample writing the better, but approximately 15 to 20 signatures should be adequate.  If you are comparing a body of writing, larger samples of writing may be necessary.  The numerous samples are necessary for the examiner to make determinations as to the natural variation which is present in everyone's writing.  The writing samples must also be "comparable".  For example, cursive writing cannot be compared to hand printing and lower case writing cannot be compared to upper case writing.


Laboratory Examinations

Routine examinations are of a non-destructive nature.  The need for destructive testing of papers or inks is rarely necessary, but when conducted the findings can be significant.  No examinations which would cause any damage or alter the document(s) are conducted without the specific permission of the owner of the document and only after all parties' examiners have had the opportunity to conduct their desired examinations.  In addition to the signature or  handwriting comparisons, the examination may involve a comprehensive examination of the document itself to resolve issues regarding authenticity.  These tests will depend on the document and circumstances surrounding the investigation.


Field Examinations

Documents that are unavailable for submission (e.g., originals in possession of another party or agency) may be examined and documented off premises for future laboratory examination.


Laboratory Equipment

Stereo Zoom Microscopes

  Used for the examination of documents at varying levels of magnification

Video Spectral Comparator

  Used for Infra-Red and Ultra-Violet non-destructive examinations of ink and paper - can show

  differences in inks and papers and can reveal altered and deleted entries

Electrostatic Detection Device

  Used for the recovery of indented impressions of handwritten material - impressions can be recovered

  several pages beneath the top page that was written on

SPEX Forensics HSX-5000-7F Forensic Light Source

Other Miscellaneous Equipment

  Computers and scanners with Adobe Photoshop software, digital cameras, and various light sources,

  magnifiers and calibrated measuring devices/grids


Reports and Testimony

Oral or written reports, affidavits, demonstrative charts, pretrial conference and expert testimony are provided as requested.


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 Standard)


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.



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.