What can a forensic examiner of questioned documents (Handwriting Expert) do for you?
Typically, a qualified Forensic Examiner of Questioned Documents (Handwriting Expert) works for a law enforcement agency and has gone through two years of full-time intensive training to qualify for the job.
Training consisted of reading numerous books and articles related to examination of questioned documents, attending formal classes concerning handwriting, handprinting, printing, typewriting and other specialties (such as identification of inks, physical characteristics of paper, examination of charred paper and the like), going through moot court training and taking numerous tests throughout the two year period of training. During the two-year training period, the examiner works actual cases under the tutelage of certified examiners. The end result is certification by the law enforcement agency.
Most questioned document cases involve examination of questioned and known signatures. What the examiner needs to compare with a questioned signature are known signatures; requested and normal-course-of-business.
How does a Handwriting Expert compare signatures?
For requested signatures, the examiner tells the investigator to get known signatures from the suspect person(s) in the name that appears on the questioned document. If the questioned name is “Dick R. Tracy,” the suspect should write “Dick R. Tracy” numerous times on lined paper, skipping a line between each signature, writing two columns of signatures and sign/date the sheet at the bottom right side. The writer should not be permitted to view the questioned signature. This usually gives the examiner about two dozen known signatures.
For normal-course-of-business signatures, the investigator should ask the suspect person(s) for normal-course-of-business signatures written on such documents as
- Legal forms
- And the like
Ideally, these signatures should have been written around the date of the questioned document. About a dozen such signatures are usually sufficient.
The examiner then does side-by-side comparisons of questioned and known signatures to determine if there are similarities (handwriting characteristics that indicate identity) or differences (handwriting characteristics that indicate non-identity).
Some of the handwriting characteristics that the examiner compares are shapes of characters, sizes of characters, relative heights of characters, spacing of characters, penlifts between characters, beginning and ending strokes of characters, slant of characters, writing with reference to a baseline and other handwriting characteristics.