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Before an examination can be made, known standard writing must be submitted for comparison. Usually the investigator submits standards for comparison. If the investigator does not submit proper standards, an examination may be limited in scope or not occur. It is crucial for the investigator and document examiner to have a good working liaison.

When submitting written standards, one should realize that like must be compared to like. For example, if the questioned material is printed, the known standards must be printed. If the questioned document is written cursively, it must be compared to cursive writing. If the writing is in pencil, the standards should be written in pencil. A general rule is to duplicate as much as possible the same conditions that occurred when the questioned material was written. Items such as writing instrument, writing position (if known), type of paper (ruled or not), may be important conditions of the writing act.

Two classes of writing standards are utilized for comparison purposes. These are non-request writing, also known as spontaneous or undictated writing, and requested writing or dictated exemplars. Both types of standards have benefits and disadvantages. The nonre-quest or undictated writing — material written by the individual during the everyday course of business — is likely to reveal the normal writing habitsof the individual. No circumstances call attention to or provide undue-emphasis to the act of'writing: The writer, unaware that the writing will be used as a standard for comparison, is not likely to alter his or her handwriting for the purpose of disguise. The disadvantage is having the non-request written material authenticated for court, and obtaining enough comparable let­ters and words can be difficult.

Requested exemplars are standards written at the request, and usually in the presence, of the investigator or examiner. Their advantage is that they provide writing that is comparable to the questioned material, and authentication is easily accomplished. The in­herent problem with requested standards is that they call attention to the writing process. This may inhibit the writer because of nervousness, or may allow the writer to attempt to distort his or her writing for the purpose of disguise. From the examiner's perspective, a combination of both requested and nonrequest writing standards serves as the best material for comparison to the questioned document. The addition of nonrequest standardsserves as a check against the individual who may attempt some form of disguise.

Normal course-of-business writing standards can be obtained for handwriting examination from:

• Applications (credit, employment, insurance, loan, rental)

• Bank records (deposit slips, cancelled checks, safe deposit record, signature cards)

• Birth certificates

• Business contracts and agreements

• Employment records

• Letters of correspondence

• Real estate (contracts, listings, warranty deeds)

• Receipts (credit card, cash, delivery)

• Registers (attendance, motel, visitor)

• School records

• Tax returns

• Time sheets

• Wills



A document examiner compares questioned handwriting or signatures side-by-side to the known standards. Handwriting attributes are examined both visually and microscopically. Everyone who looks at writing and signatures notices the most conspicuous features first, such as the slantof the writing and how the letters are formed. An examiner will look beyond the obvious features and study the subtle, inconspicuous aspects of the questioned signature or writing. By applying basic rules in document analysis, combined with experience observing thousands of letter formations and words, an expert examiner is able to determine if writing is genuine or is not.

A good analogy to handwriting identification taught to beginners is that you have been given a general description of a person. He is male, 30 years old, with dark hair and eyes, 170 pounds, 6 feet tall, with a scar on his forehead. He walks with a permanent limp and has a tattoo of a rose on his left arm. You must find this individual among a group of passengers who are coming off a plane at the airport. The first five characteristics are common; many men fit that general description. With the addition of the next three uncommon characteristics, the field narrows significantly. With all the traits combined, when you see this individual and your brain has processed the description, you will recognize him in the crowd. If the individual differed in weight by a few pounds or in age by a few years, that would not be significant. The general description could be off slightly without changing the identification. However, if one of the last three traits were missing, that would be significant and you may not have the right individual.

The analogy applies to handwriting. Some: writing features are common, and some handwriting characteristics are considered uncommon or even rare. The common features are referred to as class characteristics. These are writing attributes observed in a group of writers that are probably derived from a pen­manship system they learned. The uncommon handwritten characteristics, known as individual characteristics, are considered distinctive, personal, or peculiar to the handwriting of one person. An experienced document examiner is able to recognize class characteristics and avoid identifying an individual's writing solely on the basis of these common handwriting features. If the writing is naturally executed, and a combination of similarities between the questioned material and known standards is significant and individ­ual, the examiner renders an opinion that the questioned and known material were written by the same individual. If the questioned writing or signature contains a combination of significant dissimilarities or indications of .forgery the examiner may proffer an opinion, of not genuine. In doing a comparison, an examiner studies characteristics, such as how letters are constructed, how they are connected, the beginningand ending strokesof letters, the relative height ratioof letters, the spacing between letters and words, the skill level,speed, size, and shading.

In order to account for the variation in a person's writing, an examiner needs an adequate number of writing or signature standards to compare. Writing variation represents the alternate forms of a single handwritten characteristic found in a .person's writing. One principle in document examination is that no two individuals write exactly alike, and another principle is that no one person writes exactly the same way twice. An individual has a repetitive range to his or her writing. Not every letter will be exactly the same or every beginning or' terminal stroke of a letter the same. Every time a person writes," the pen or pencil may start at a slightly different speed or point on the paper. However, a basic pattern or habitual style is still inherent within a person's writing. An examiner looks for this pattern in the standards. He or she can then determine whether the questioned writing is within the range of a person's variation.



Questioned photocopies can be examined visually for individual characteristic "trash" marks that may be made because of dirt, scratches, and other extraneous marks on the surfaces of the drum, cover, glass plate, or camera lens of a photocopy machine. A comparison of these marks on the questioned document with those marks made by a specific machine can identify or eliminate that particular machine as the source of the document. Similarly a side-by-side comparison of two or more questioned photocopies may reveal if they are the product of a common photocopy machine. As in photocopier identification, multiple generations of copies and more than one photocopy machine involved severely limit the conclusiveness of the resulting opinions.

When the document examiner examines a photocopy to determine the genuineness of the original signature as represented by the photocopy, the examination must take into account the possibility that a genuine signature was affixed to a fraudulent document and the composite, or paste-up, photocopied. This may result in what would appear to be a photocopy of an original document bearing a genuine signature. The same may be true of any other portion of a photocopy. Photocopies can he prepared from a composite of parts of two or more documents which, when copied, can appear to be a reproduction of a single document. The resultant copy, made" from composites, may or may not display characteristics indicative of its production from two or more document sources.

Indications of spuriousness include mis­aligned typing; different fonts and fontsizes; misaligned preprinted matter; incorrect vertical, horizontal, and margin spacing; "shadowing" in the joined areas; disproportionate area sizes; different preprinted material and ink densities; and missing portions of writing or printing (covered by the paste-up, too closely trimmed, or masked by an opaque fluid). The "trash marks"surrounding the signature may be of greater or lesser quantity than those on the remainder of the document. This is especially true if either the model signature or document to be used in the paste-up was itself a photocopy. The best indication of a possibly fraudulent photocopy is a claim that the original document has "disappeared" or has been "misplaced."

Even when none of these indications of photocopy forgery is present, the prudent document examiner who issues an opinion about the authenticity of a signature or an entire disputed document, when the submitted evidence is a photocopy, will qualify his or her opinion. The qualifier is a statement that the opinion is predicated upon the questioned document being a true and accurate reproduction of the original document. Many examiners go even farther by including a statement in the Report of Findings that finds the accuracy of opinions involving then employed to preserve the shadowed indentation. A combination of multiple exposures taken while moving the light source fills in the available indentations with shadow and effectively reproduce the indented writing. While such techniques are often acceptable, they lack the ability to recover invisible microscopic indentations and have an inherently lengthy processing time.




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