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Document Examination, as an established field of scientific study, came into being early in the 20th century as a means of identifying forgery and establishing the authenticity of documents in dispute. It grew out of the need of the Court to be able to correctly evaluate document evidence.

The examination of questioned documents relies on the scientific study of the physical evidence of a document. Physical traces that assist in the questioned document (QD) examination to uncover the history of a document are left in a number of ways: the writing instrument, i.e., pen and ink, pencil, typewriter, computer and printer, etc., the writing surface, such as paper, and information about the writer (or typist), such as physical position and physical, emotional, or mental state. For handwriting, the forensic document examiner observes various features: letter size, formation, and relative proportions, and letter slant, spacing, pressure, line quality, connecting strokes, etc. For typing, the document examiner observes characteristics of the typeface, font style, spacing between letters and lines, and association of a document with a particular machine or type of machine, i.e., typewriter, printer, or copier.

Common criminal charges involved in a document examination case include identity theft, forgery, counterfeiting, fraud, or uttering a forged document. A questioned document may be a sheet of paper bearing handwriting or mechanically-produced text such as a ransom note, a forged cheque or a business contract. It also includes things like graffiti on a wall, stamp impressions on meat products, or covert markings hidden in a written letter, among other things.

The most common type of examination involves handwriting. Handwriting identification is based on the principle: there are individual features that distinguish one person's writing from that of another. Generally, there are three stages in the process of examination:

Analysis: The questioned and the known items are analyzed and broken down to directly perceptible characteristics.

Comparison: The characteristics of the questioned item are then compared against the known standard.

Evaluation: Similarities and/or differences in the compared properties are evaluated and this determines which ones are valuable for a conclusion. This depends on the uniqueness and frequency of occurrence in the items.

Optionally, the procedure may involve a fourth step consisting of verification/validation or peer review.

Modern day questioned document problems are becoming more complex. Fortunately with the advent of specialized photographic techniques, computer-based systems for image enhancement, and recent developments in relative ink and paper dating by forensic chemists, the arsenal of analytical tools continues to expand with more conclusive determinations being made by the competent expert who is familiar with their proper applications and uses.



1. Answer the questions:

  1. Why is there a need for QDE (questioned document examination)?
  2. What physical traces can assist to the forensic document examiner?
  3. How can the forensic document examiner investigate handwriting/typing?
  4. What types of documents are usually disputed?
  5. How many stages are there in the process of examination?
  6. What are they?
  7. What optional stage may be used by the examiner?
  8. How has the work of the forensic document examiner been simplified nowadays?


2. Make up sentences using the words below (the first word in the sentence is in bold type):

  1. documents in dispute, a means of, the authenticity of, is, Document Examination, and, identifying forgery, establishing.


  1. are, the information, physical traces, the writing instruments, the writer, assist, the history of a document, about, and, the writing surface, that, to uncover.


  1. graffiti on a wall, may, a sheet of paper, be, forged cheque, etc., a questioned document, a ransom note.



  1. the principle, individual features, handwriting identification, one person's writing, based on, from, is, distinguish, that, that of another, there are.


  1. in the process of, stages, there, analysis, three, evaluation, generally, comparison, are, examination, and.


  1. consisting of, the procedure, a fourth step, optionally, may, verification/validation, involve, peer review, or.



3. Complete the scheme with proper information from the text:

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