Blog – Categories
Forensic Document Examination is a common resource for resolving criminal and civil cases involving allegations of forgery. “Forgery” is a legal term used to broadly define the intentional falsification of a document. It is normally the result of the intent of someone to deceive another person or entity for financial gain. Two of the most common types of forgery are: Signature forgery: Document examiners are trained as handwriting experts. They will analyze a signature in question by comparing it to several samples of the subject’s true signature to identify similarities and differences. Common examinations include signatures on wills, contracts, loan agreements, etc. Document alterations: Documents such as contracts, journals, inventory lists, time sheets, medical records may have writing or numerals added, deleted or altered in some manner. A document examiner will use various laboratory instruments to resolve such issues. For example, one instrument is designed to examine inks in the infrared light spectrum. It is used to examine documents that allegedly have an alteration such as the numeral “1” changed to a “4”. The addition of the second stroke, made with a different pen, may be determined with the lab instrument.
Initially, writers learn to write by emulating a handwriting system taught in school. As students mature, they quickly stray from the copybook forms to making letters with individualizing features. These characteristics may include variations in the form of the writing slant, the spacing between letters, the design and length of approach and termination strokes, the positioning of ‘i-dots’ and ‘t-crossings’, etc. There is natural variation in the signatures and writing of all people which is why document examiners will ask for several known writing samples of a suspected writer. By having several samples, the signature expert will be able to establish a master pattern or consistency of the writer. The questioned signature will then either conform to the known writing specimens or not. Handwriting examination is a complex and detailed field. For example, some signatures may pictorially appear to the be the product of the same person. However, a comparison by a document examiner may prove a signature in question was not genuine but rather the result of a simulation, tracing, or a ‘cut and paste’ fabrication.
Document examiners are commonly asked if photocopies may be used for a handwriting comparison. They may. However, the preferable form documents are submitted is in the following order: originals, photographs, photocopies and, if necessary, microfilm and faxed copies. Fortunately, modern microfilm machines provide much better quality reproductions. Original documents may provide evidence not reproduced on machine copies. For example, a common type of fabricated document involves a “cut and paste” process; cutting a genuine signature from one document and pasting it onto the fabricated document. The resulting photocopy will have a genuine signature, implying the person signed the document at issue. The ‘original’ can not be provided for examination. It’s absence will be explained as being “lost” or “misplaced”. Another reason the original is of value is it may be examined for indentations. Also, pen pressure may be evaluated and optic brighteners of individual pages in the document may be compared. Take the extra effort to provide your document examiner with the originals, if they are available. It will make their task easier and produce better results.