Forensic Document Examination

The term "forensic" means simply, "having to do with the law." Document Examination, as an established field of scientific study, came into being early in this century as a means of identifying forgery and establishing the authenticity of documents in dispute.

A document may be broadly defined as anything that bears marks, signs, words, or symbols which have meaning or conveys a message to someone in some form.

Scope of Document Examination

Handwriting Identification

Handwriting identification is based on the principle that, while handwriting within a language tends to be alike to the degree that we can meaningfully read it, there are individual features that distinguish one person's writing from that of another. Just as no two people are exactly alike, the handwritings of no two people are exactly alike in their combination of characteristics.

Handwriting identification is a comparison study requiring authenticated specimens of known handwriting from the individual(s) concerned. These are closely compared to the handwriting characteristics exhibited by the questioned writing in order to determine authorship. Like must be compared to like: printing to printing and cursive to cursive, with comparable letters, letter combinations, words, and numerals.

Forgery

Below are the classes of forgery commonly encountered:

It is our expertise that to identify a document or signature as a forgery.

Identification of writers and Check Photocopies

With regard to identification of writers, questions arise as to whether a series of documents were prepared on the same computer. Check writers, also known as check protectors, may be identified as to manufacturer by its mechanism and typeface design, and individualized by accidental characteristics resulting from damage and wear and tear.

Identification of Indented Writing

Indented writing is an imprint which may be left on the underlying pages when the top sheet of paper is written upon. This impression of the writing is influenced by pen pressure and thickness of the paper. Indented writing is very useful as a form of connecting evidence, such as tying a robbery note to a writing pad recovered from a suspect. Classically, indented writing was identified and deciphered by means of low angle oblique light and photography.

Detection and Decipherment of Obliterations and Alterations:

These examinations are performed in order to detect whether a portion of a document has been altered, some portion rendered not readily visible, or some text added. Instruments such as a Video Spectral Comparator (VSC) assist in this study. The VSC allows the examiner to examine the document through infrared illumination using an infrared sensitive CCD camera as a detector. The image is examined by viewing on a monitor, and digital image processing through a computer. This is very useful in ink differentiation.

Forensic Document Examiner

A Forensic Document Examiner must have a sound basic education through the baccalaureate degree. It should be understood that questioned documents is a valid and legitimate field of study as a discipline in forensic examinations and identification.

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