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HANDWRITING/HANDPRINTING

In many cases involving dispute, there is a potential for documents, which contain handwriting and/or handprinting for which questions may arise concerning authorship. Wills, endorsements on checks, letters, credit card applications or sales invoices, bank documents and even scribbled notations are just a few of the types of documents in which the identification of the author of the writing thereon may prove to be of value.

EXPECTED RESULTS

On many occasions it is possible for the document examiner to state with no reservations that a particular individual did or did not write a specific written entry. On other occasions, because of the limited or general nature of the questioned writing, the lack of a sufficient amount of known (specimen) writing, disguise in the questioned or known writing, or other reasons, it may not be possible to state the results with complete certitude but a qualified opinion may be expressed. Depending on the weight of other evidence in the case, these qualified opinions may still be of value in subsequent decisions or prosecutions. The following is offered as the types of opinions that may be expressed by document examiners in handwriting cases, which for the purpose of this discussion, include handprinting cases:

Identification (definite conclusion of identity): this is the highest degree of confidence expressed by document examiners in handwriting comparisons. The examiner has no reservations whatsoever, and he is certain, based on the evidence contained in the handwriting, that the known writer actually wrote the writing in question.

Strong probability (highly probable, very probable):

The evidence is very persuasive, yet some critical feature or quality is missing so that identification is not warranted; however, the examiner is virtually certain that the same individual wrote the questioned and known writings.

Probable:

The evidence contained in the handwriting points rather strongly toward the questioned and known writings having been written by the same individual; however, it falls short of the virtually certain degree of confidence.

Indications (evidence to suggest):

Some handwriting may have few features, which are of significance for handwriting comparison purposes, but those features are in agreement with other writing, suggesting that the same individual may have prepared them. Note: This is a very weak opinion and some examiners doubt the desirability of reporting an opinion this vague, but those examiners who are trying to encompass the entire gray scale of degrees of confidence may wish to use this or a similar term. Usually a statement that the evidence is far from conclusive follows this opinion.

No conclusion (totally inconclusive, indeterminable):

This is the zero point of the confidence scale. It is used when there are significantly limiting factors, such as heavy disguise in the questioned and/or known writings or a lack of comparable writing, and the examiner does not have a leaning one way or the other.

Indications did not:

This carries the same weight as the indications term above; that is, it is a very weak opinion.

Probably did not (unlikely):

The evidence points rather strongly against the questioned and known writings having been written by the same individual, but as in the probable range above, the evidence is not quite up to the virtually certain range.

Strong probability did not (highly unlikely):

This carries the same weight as strong probability above; that is, there is a virtual certainty that the questioned and known writings were not written by the same individual.

Elimination:

This, like the definite conclusion of identity, is the highest degree of confidence expressed by the document examiner in handwriting comparisons. By using this degree of confidence, the examiner denotes no reservation in the opinion that the questioned and known writings were not written by the same individual. Often, this is the most difficult determination made by a document examiner, especially in limited writings, such as single signatures, when the only known writings are those provided by the suspect at the request of the investigator.

SUBMITTER’S RESPONSIBILITIES

The most important thing than submitter can do to assist the document examiner in handwriting cases is to obtain proper exemplars from potential writers. Although a great detail is available concerning the amount and types of handwriting specimens (exemplars) that should be obtained, the following is offered as the most common problems found in cases submitted for examination:

Failure to get all of the questioned material repeated: The writing in the body of fraudulent applications is usually more readily identifiable than the signature, and the addresses that are parts of check endorsements, if they are repeated, are often of value in the comparison process.

Wrong writing style:

Cursive (script) handwriting cannot be compared with handprinting, nor can upper-case (capital) letters be compared with lower-case (small) letters. It is necessary to have suspects write the specimen writing in the same style as represented by the questioned text.

Insufficient repetitions:

A rule of thumb is that the less the amount of questioned writing, the more times it is necessary to have the suspect repeat it. A single questioned signature or endorsement should be repeated twenty to thirty times, whereas only representative portions of a three-page letter need to be repeated.

Writings are not contemporaneous:

Most people’s writing changes over time, and sometimes those changes are rather drastic; so it becomes necessary to obtain non-request specimens, which were executed around the time as the questioned writing.

Claim forms not submitted in true payee cases:

When false claims are made, it is natural for the payee to disguise his request specimens; therefore, it is essential that non- request signatures be examined before a meaningful comparison is possible. In check cases, often the most readily available source of those signatures is the claim form. Even in suspected forgery cases, it is often helpful to examine the payee’s writing in order to determine whether the signature may be an attempted simulation or a tracing of a genuine signature.


INDENTED WRITING

Indented writing on a document is the result of pressure from a writing instrument on a preceding page. Anonymous and threatening letters, altered documents, checks bearing traced signatures and other documents could contain indented writing.

EXPECTED RESULTS

Indented writing may be deciphered through side lighting or with the aid of laboratory equipment. Subsequent handwriting examinations are sometimes possible with deciphered indented writing.

SUBMITTER’S RESPONSIBILITIES

Any document suspected of containing indented writing should be submitted to SFC in a plastic envelope for examination. Every attempt should be made not to write on documents that are placed atop the questioned document.


OFFICE MACHINE COPIERS

In recent years the office machine copier “OMC” industry has expanded enormously. Not only has the demand for copiers increased, but the technology has expanded outside the standard office copier. This growth is seen in the full color copiers, ink jet copiers, digital stencil duplicators, thermal printers, laser printers and multi-purpose machines. With the ease of use and accessibility of these machines, the use of OMC’s for fraudulent activities has increased dramatically.

EXPECTED RESULTS

A microscopic and/or chemical examination may reveal the type of process used to print the document. This can then be compared against the process(es) used to produce genuine or unaltered documents to aid in determining authenticity.

As a copier is used, defects occur from scratches on the platen (the glass where the original document is placed), the document cover, the photoreceptor (the charged drum inside the copier) or the fuser rollers (the rollers which fuse the toner to the paper). These defects may be visualized on the copy. A defect, or “trash mark”, comparison can be made between questioned copies and suspect machines; and it is possible to identify a specific copier as being the copier on which the questioned copies were made.

If identification cannot be made, it is still possible to make a comparison of class characteristics to confirm or eliminate the possibility that the copier could have been used in the production of the copy. At times “trash marks” may be used in conjunction with machine service records and documents known to have been copied on given dates to determine the approximate date a specific document was copied or to determine that a document could not have been copied on a given date.

SUBMITTER’S RESPONSIBILITIES

Documents submitted for copier or printer analysis should be submitted for document analysis prior to submitting for latent print examination. When a copier is suspected in making the questioned documents, samples should be taken as soon as possible. Defects change with use, so time is often a factor in the ability to identify the suspect machine. Toner may also be depleted and replenished with use, sometimes making a chemical analysis of questionable value.

In obtaining samples, several sets should be taken. A set should contain multiple (seven to ten) copies of each paper size available for the machine. Each set should be stapled together and labeled as to how they were produced; which side is the image side; the make, model and serial number of the machine; and initialed and dated.

The first set should be taken with a clean white sheet of paper on the glass the same size as the copy size. The second set should be made with no paper on the platen and the cover down. The third set should be taken with no paper on the platen and the cover up. The last set should be a copy of any original document, which covers at least a quarter of the page. A full color original should be used when taking samples of a full color copier. These samples should be submitted to the lab with the questioned documents.


PRINTING INK

Counterfeit documents are often produced by commercial printing, usually utilizing the offset printing process but sometimes also using the typographic or intaglio processes. The ink used in the production of these documents may be compared with inks on other like documents, with inks in containers found at print shops, or with inks found on counterfeit paraphernalia such as printing presses, offset plates, etc. In order to conduct these analyses, fairly large samples (approximately 1/4″ circle) must be taken from the documents in question.

EXPECTED RESULTS

A determination can be made as to whether the ink(s) on documents in question and the inks from known sources (such as ink containers, offset plates, et cetera) are the same or different.

SUBMITTER’S RESPONSIBILITIES

All evidence should be inventoried and submitted with a request letter. Samples of printing ink may be submitted in small vials or in cans. Specify the ink and/or documents to be compared.


TRACINGS AND SIMULATIONS

Occasionally signatures are forged by either carefully copying (imitating) the signature from a model genuine signature or from memory of the general appearance of the signature being copied; or the signature may be traced from a model signature by such methods as using back lighting (sometimes called a window tracing), an indented outline, or a carbon outline.

EXPECTED RESULTS

Although it is seldom possible to identify the author of a simulation and never possible to identify the author of a tracing by handwriting comparisons, it is possible to determine that the signature in question is in fact a tracing or simulation, and sometimes it is also possible to find the actual model signature.

SUBMITTER’S RESPONSIBILITIES

In addition to obtaining request exemplars in questioned signature cases, it is also advisable to obtain non-request signatures such as those found on cancelled checks, especially if it is suspected that a tracing or simulation has occurred.


ERASURES/ERADICATIONS/OBLITERATIONS

Erasures (physical removal), eradications (chemical removal) and obliterations (overwriting or opaquing) are frequently encountered when attempts are made to hide or alter written entries.

EXPECTED RESULTS

The document examiner has many tools that can be effectively used to decipher erased, obliterated or eradicated writings. The success of these attempts at decipherment varies depending on the writing instrument, the writing surface and the degree of obliteration. Many times it is possible to restore or decipher the original information and this evidence can be of great value in solving a case.

SUBMITTER’S RESPONSIBILITIES

A document containing a suspected alteration should be handled with extra care to prevent further damage to any potential evidence. Place the document in a protective envelope and avoid unnecessary folding or marking. Label the protective envelope prior to inserting the evidence to prevent further marks or indented writings. A request for this type of analysis must be done prior to any treatment for latent prints, since the chemical treatment for latent fingerprints often destroys any evidence of this nature.


WRITING INK AND WRITING INSTRUMENTS

Inks appearing on questioned documents may be examined for the purpose of comparing with other inks on those documents, with ink on other documents or with ink in seized pens. Sequence of entry can sometimes be determined.

EXPECTED RESULTS

Non-destructive techniques used in the analysis of inks involve microscopic examinations and the use of various wavelengths of radiation (e.g., visible light, infrared and ultraviolet radiation, filters, etc.). Although useful in the elimination of some inks, these techniques are not as definitive as destructive techniques, in which small discs are removed from the ink lines.

By utilizing destructive techniques, it is possible to determine if two inks on the same or different documents are of the same formulation or if the ink on a document and the ink in a seized pen are of the same formulation. By comparing with a library of ink standards it is possible to determine the manufacturer of the ink and the date it was introduced (useful in detecting backdated documents).

SUBMITTER’S RESPONSIBILITIES

All evidence should be inventoried and submitted with the request letter outlining the writing ink analysis. Specify the entries in question and include a notation to indicate that a comparison is to be made between certain inks or between inks on documents and inks in writing pens.


INDENTED WRITING

Indented writing on a document is the result of pressure from a writing instrument on a preceding page. Anonymous and threatening letters, altered documents, checks bearing traced signatures and other documents could contain indented writing.

EXPECTED RESULTS

Indented writing may be deciphered through side lighting or with the aid of laboratory equipment. Subsequent handwriting examinations are sometimes possible with deciphered indented writing.

SUBMITTER’S RESPONSIBILITIES

Any document suspected of containing indented writing should be submitted to SFC in a plastic envelope for examination. Every attempt should be made not to write on documents that are placed atop the questioned document.


INK AGE DETERMINATION

Sometimes the date of a written ink entry relative to other entries on the same document is questioned. Documents bearing such entries may be single page documents or bound documents, such as journals, calendars or diaries. Before conducting this type of examination, two requirements must be met: 1) There must be entries on the document or similar documents whose dates are not questioned that are the same ink formula as the questioned entry, and 2) The questioned and unquestioned ink entries must occur on the same document or documents stored under the same conditions to ensure that the entries were exposed to the same environmental conditions. A destructive technique is used for this examination, i.e., small samples of the ink line are removed from the paper.

In other cases, the age of an individual ink entry is in question. It may be dated a particular date, but their may be suspicion it was actually written much later. In these cases we utilize an approach where we examine for the presence of 2-phenoxyethanol (PE) which is a solvent commonly used in the production of most ballpoint pen inks. If this chemical is found in a sufficient quantity then an opinion can be reached as to if the ink entry was placed on the document recently, i.e. in the last 2 years. This technique requires analysis of the ink using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry.

EXPECTED RESULTS

It is possible to determine that an entry on a questioned document was placed on that document at a time other than that indicated.

SUBMITTER’S RESPONSIBILITIES

All documents submitted should be properly inventoried and submitted to the lab.


TYPEWRITING

Typewriting is found on numerous document cases investigated by Document Examiners. Wills, legal documents, credit card applications, anonymous and threatening letters, and counterfeit identification documents, e.g. Social Security Cards and drivers’ licenses often bear typewriting.

EXPECTED RESULTS

The most common typewriting examinations are 1) determining the make and model of the typewriter, 2) determining whether a known typewriter prepared a questioned document, 3) determining whether two different documents were reproduced on the same typewriter, and 4) determining whether additions were made to a document. Additionally, transcripts can be made from some typewriter ribbons.

SUBMITTER’S RESPONSIBILITIES

It is not always necessary to send in a typewriter. Instead, usually the ribbon or ribbon cartridge should be removed and marked for identification and replaced with a new ribbon or cartridge. A complete strike-up of the keyboard, both uppercase and lowercase, should be prepared and the entire questioned text should be duplicated (several times if very limited questioned typewriting). The known sample should also be marked as to manufacturer and serial number of the machine, date sample was taken and name of person taking sample. If a transcript of the ribbon is desired, the ribbon or cartridge should be submitted. If there is a question regarding whether it would be better to send in the typewriter, contact us for instructions.


TRACE EVIDENCE

Trace evidence includes hair, fibers, glass, soils, particles, explosives and any small items found at a crime scene. You should always verify that proper procedures were followed and protocols were not breached. Evaluation of potential evidence prior to reaching the courtroom will help you assess the value of the evidence and whether procedures were followed to yield accurate results.

Daubert considerations should also be evaluated prior to entering the evidence or expert testimony.

 

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