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Document and Handwriting Analysis

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by

Jeni Day

on 6 September 2014

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Transcript of Document and Handwriting Analysis

These methods should not be confused with graphology, which is a quasi-science that uses handwriting to hypothesize characteristics of a person (although that is sometimes used by lawyers in jury selection!)
A questioned document is any signature, handwriting, typewriting, or other mark whose source or authenticity is in dispute or doubtful. The document does NOT have to be written on paper – for example, it could be graffiti, written in blood on the floor, or constructed on plastic. The questioned document may arise in any number of criminal scenarios, such as fraud, kidnapping or even violent crimes. A questioned document examiner is trained in methods to analyze a questioned document.
Questioned Documents
How Handwriting is Analyzed
Characteristics a document examiner will measure/analyze:

• General font (Ex: Palmer vs. Zaner-Bloser method of writing)
• Pressure applied to pen/pencil (if determinable)
• Shape of singular letters
• Direction of slant
• Size of letters
• How letters are connected with the next letter
• Unusual characteristics (such as use of plus sign)
• Use of punctuation
• Spelling
• Grammar
• Vocabulary
• Paragraph phrasing

The examiner then compares those characteristics to a standard or exemplar, which is a known sample. There are two types of exemplars: requested and nonrequested writings.

Techniques for Analysis
Comparison with Naked Eye
Comparison with Hand Lens
Special Lighting
Infrared Spectroscope
ESDA
Video Sepectral Comparator
Principle of Individuality
The principle of individuality, also known as the principle of uniqueness, forms the basis for handwriting analysis. That is, no two writers share the same combination of handwriting characteristics given sufficient quantity and quality of writing to compare. Due to questions about the reliability of handwriting analysis, this evidence is not always allowed as evidence in court. However, handwriting analysis has proved very useful.

We learn handwriting early in life, and the habits of our handwriting process are very difficult to lose later in life. You tend to hold your pen a certain way, shape your letters and space letters and word in a specific pattern, and even dot your “i”s and cross your “t”s in a set style. These types of traits form a pattern that can be used in identification.

NCVPS Forensics
Document and Handwriting Analysis
Possible Conclusions
Forged Signatures / Writing by Freehand
Forged Signatures / Writing by Tracing
Alteration of a Document by Erasure
Alteration by Obliteration
Determination of First Present (in Overwriting Case)
Mythbuster! Indented writing is when someone writes on top of another sheet of paper and the pressure of the pen transfers to the paper below. Some TV shows or movies show someone lightly rubbing the indented paper with pencil to reveal the writing. Not only does this NOT work, but it also destroys the evidence! Use of lighting at an angle is, however, sometimes able to reveal the writing.
Mechanical Comparisons
Faxed, typed, printed and photocopied papers can also be analyzed. Each machine has characteristics that may be unique due to different environmental conditions or use. For example, a typewriter may have letters that are worn down. A laser printer accumulates marks on the drum that appear as small black dots on the paper. The devise that feeds paper into a photocopier leaves grabber marks on the paper that may yield information about the make and model of the copier.
One common use of mechanical fraud is counterfeiting, such as in counterfeit money or documents. Counterfeit money is currency produced without the legal sanction of that government. By examining characteristics of the money, such as the lines of the portrait, sharpness of the seals, whether the border is unbroken, style of the serial number, whether the red and blue lines are fibers in the paper (authentic) or lines on the surface it is usually possible for even an untrained person to detect counterfeit money. One common test is use of the iodine pen.
Reliability
Document analysis often conducted in cases of fraud, such as forgery
Admissibility in court is key, but sometimes difficult
Standards are set to help ensure admissibility
Case In Point: The FBI and reliability of document analysis:
4 Step Process
Levels of confidence part of conclusion assessment
Full transcript