Defining Altered Document
An alteration is a modification made to a document by physical, chemical, or mechanical means including, but not limited to, obliterations, additions, overwritings, or erasures. Sometimes an alteration may occur to critical entries after a document has been signed and/or paragraphs, words, or pages have been inserted, removed, or replaced creating forged documents. A document examiner will use a variety of techniques including alternate light sources, magnification, detection of indented impressions, side lighting, transmitted lighting, and others in a non-destructive method to examine the document for characteristics indicative of alterations.
An alteration is the unauthorized modification of a security document and can occur for a variety of reasons.
Altering Document After It Has Been Signed
The intent of the writer who is signing someone else’s signature is similar to determining the intent when someone is altering documents. Why? Is there a reason or necessity why this is occuring? Making that determination about “intent” is not up to a document examiner to decide but should be decided by the triers of fact in a courtroom.
There are explanations, for example, why signatures may be prepared by someone other than the author. Spouses are authorized to endorse checks for deposit, a bookkeeper may be authorized to sign checks for the company president. It’s important when evaluating characteristics of alterations because they may occur in the normal preparation, handling, and storage of the documents.