In When is a Handwriting Expert Not a Handwriting Expert? handwriting expert witness Dennis Ryan of Applied Forensics, LLC, writes:
A handwriting expert is not a handwriting expert when they are called on to examine aspects of a document that do not require a handwriting examination. Most handwriting experts are actually Forensic Document Examiners (FDE’s). The expertise of a Forensic Document Examiner goes well beyond the examination and comparison of signatures, hand-printed or handwritten items. The Forensic Document Examiner (Handwriting Expert) can examine documents to determine if they are forged. For example, our FDEs have examined documents associated with a vintage automobile sale. The documents that were produced in the sale of the automobile were the window sticker, the bill of sale and other related documents. The price of the automobile was increased by a hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) when these documents were used in the sale of the automobile. Our examiners determined that the documents were fraudulent because they were produced using a color laser printer/copier. The documents appeared artificially aged.
The Forensic Document Examiner (handwriting expert) can also examine documents to determine the method of production of the document. Was the document produced by a typewriter, dot matrix, ink jet or laser printer? Does the document have a signature on it which appears original but is in fact a color laser copy of the signature and not the original inked signature? Does the ink jet printer have a defect that can identify the specific printer used to create the document?
A Forensic Document Examiner may also examine alterations, additions and deletions. Our office has examined documents ranging from medical treatment records to standardized school testing records for evidence of alterations, additions or deletions. The alterations are not always evident without a close examination using infrared imaging technology. Our examiners have examined hundreds of state standardized tests and have found, on occasion, the answers have been changed from an incorrect answer to a correct one.
The Forensic Document Examiner (handwriting expert) also does indentation analysis. An examiner could, for example, determine why handwritten initials from page one of a multi-page document do not appear on page two of the document, but the initials appear on the remaining pages of the multi page document. The answer could be that an alternative version of page two has been substituted. In another case, our office compared indentations from a 2008 document and those of a document dated 2014 which provided a clue in dating the document in question.
The Forensic Document Examiners (handwriting experts) in our offices have been asked to examine photocopied documents to determine if the copies are mechanical fabrications. Another term for a mechanical fabrication is a “cut and paste”. With the accessibility of desktop publishing so prevalent in today’s society, a “cut and paste” can be done with relative ease with only a computer and a scanner. A “cut and paste” can be very rudimentary or very sophisticated, it all depends on the time and effort one wants to put into creating the document.
As one can see the handwriting expert does not always fulfill the role of handwriting expert. The Forensic Document Examiner commonly referred to as a handwriting expert, conducts a myriad of examinations on documents called into question.
Applied Forensics is a state of art laboratory of certified Forensic Document Examiners with offices in New York, Maryland, Boston, Connecticut, and North Carolina. Document examinations are provided in the following areas: handwriting, typewriter, photocopies, alterations, obliterations, erasures, and paper exams.