Why and When You Need Forensic Document Examination?
Questioned Document Examination
Examinations conducted by document examiners are multi-faceted and cover many areas including: signatures, evidence of alterations, indented impressions, paper, printing processes, security and identity documents. Most examinations are comparing a suspect (questioned) document to known standards for authentication. Original documents are preferred for the examiner to assess as much information as possible. If an original is unavailable, a high quality copy may be used depending on the case. An analysis, comparison and the evaluation of the characteristics observed by the examiner will be noted and significant findings will be produced in a report with demonstrative exhibits. Working in a non-destructive environment, examiners will protect the documents received ensuring the integrity of the items received.
Perform Evidence Examination
There are different types of evidence examined by a forensic document examiner including contracts, loan and banking documents, wills, deeds, checks, and many others. It is imperative for a forensic document examiner to excel in analyzing all forms of documentary evidence to better serve the clients that hire them.
Most forensic document examiners analyze handwritten evidence. Signatures are the most common form of evidence that needs to be analyzed. Specifically, the court usually questions the authorship and authenticity of a signature or written letter. Other handwritten evidence includes wills, contracts, and deeds.
Forensic document examiners also examine other vital documents, such as medical charts, to determine authorship of handwritten entries or dating questions concerning when an entry was produced. They also compare questioned handwriting to known suspect(s), on anonymous correspondence, timesheets, checks, and tax returns.
A document examiner may also assist with a questioned document that was produced using a typewriter. An expert examiner may be able to identify which model of the typewriter was used to create the document in question. Some typewriters develop a unique set of characteristics that help the forensic document examiner identify which typewriter produced the typewritten text. Other examinations include identifying the font type, ink, and ribbons.
Forensic document examiners can also identify if any alterations and erasures were observed on the typewritten document.
Perform Document Analysis
Questioned and known documents received to the Laboratory are given a designation, numbered, and labeled before any analysis begins. Once the documents have been properly labelled, an analysis begins by reviewing the entire document without equipment noting any limitations, observations, etc. Once the initial analysis has been performed, the examiner will perform a more thorough review using equipment such as side lighting, transmitted light, and magnification to prepare a more detailed analysis. Pictures, observations, drawings, will be captured in detailed notes demonstrating what the examiner observed. This is the first step in performing a document analysis.
Detecting Forged Signatures
Examining a suspect’s signature on a document is a frequent request received by a forensic document examiner. Deciding if the signature is genuine or not requires careful examination of several facets of the signature including line quality, speed, letter formations, height relationships, and size. Because signatures are the most common type of forgery, suspect signature cases appear in the authentication of sports memorabilia, contested wills and deeds, employment contracts, and checks.
Perform Handwriting Analysis
Handwriting analysis is conducted to determine whether the questioned handwriting or signatures were prepared by the known writer(s) submitted. Careful analysis of the handwriting is conducted to determine if the handwriting is original or a copy. Does the handwriting demonstrate characteristics of a natural signature? (i.e. tapered beginning and ending strokes, speed, and fluidity). Elements of execution and handwriting features are examined to analyze the size, slant, connecting strokes, alignment, proportion of the letters, letter formations, and baseline characteristics, etc. Should the handwriting be determined to be natural without distortion or disguise and demonstrate an internal consistency, it can be analyzed and compared to the known writing.
Check The Authentication of Documentation
Conducting a comparison with handwriting or a security document is best compared to a relevant, contemporaneous, and comparable document. Known standards should be verified before using them in a comparative examination. Document examiners performing comparisons against identify documents such as passports must rely on samples provided from the City, State, or Country of origin. Most government laboratories have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between countries to provide updated information regarding security features or changes. Handwriting exemplars should also be verified by the agent or officer collecting the exemplars. After the handwriting is collected, it should be labeled by the individual who collected the handwriting, with name, date, time and any other relevant information so these specimens can be used and introduced into a court of law, if needed.
Other Aspects Analyzed
Not only does a forensic document examiner analyze handwriting, but they also perform non-destructive testing on ink samples to determine if the same or different ink was used to prepare a document.
For example, an examiner may try to see if there were certain words added or changed in the said document after the document was written. They can also identify whether a fabric or film ribbon was used to prepare a typewritten document.
Another aspect of a forensic document examiner’s job includes the analysis of the paper used to write the document. A watermark in the paper may determine a date when the paper was manufactured and the company that produced it.
Forensic document examiners analyze the paper for indented writing. These are indentations that may not be visible to the eye but are transferred through the pressure of the writing instrument on sheets of paper underneath where the writing was performed. This type of evidence lends investigative assistance or helps determine the sequence of entries.