Dec 29

The Basics of Forensic Document Examination

Forensics is a branch of study that has to do with legal matters. In forensic document examination, most of the work involves identification of handwriting. Documents can be defined as anything containing symbols, signs or marks that convey meaning. Below, readers can learn more on the scope of a forensic document examiner’s work.

Identification of Handwriting

Handwriting identification stems from the principle that, while writing is a universal language, there are distinguishing features that differ from one person’s handwriting to another example. Just as no two humans are alike, no two subjects’ handwriting are precisely the same. Natural variations can occur within a person’s handwriting, and the examiner must study these so he or she can distinguish between variations and differences.


There are several forgery classes commonly encountered by document examiners. In some cases, there’s no attempt to imitate a genuine signature, and in others, someone tries to trace a model of another person’s signature. On some documents, the signer and the document itself are both fictitious, and high-tech forgers copy and paste signatures from authorized sources to fraudulent documents. Other disputes can occur when a genuine signature is illegibly written, or when the signer has no memory of the act.

Indented Writing Identification

When an imprint is left on underlying pages on a notepad, indented writing is said to occur. The impression is affected by paper thickness and pen pressure, and indented writing can be a very useful type of connecting evidence. In the past, indented writing was decoded with oblique, low-angle light. Recently, however, an instrument called an electrostatic detection apparatus has been used to produce an image of the writing on transparent film.

Document Examiner Qualifications

Document examiners must have at least a baccalaureate degree, with two years’ practical experience in a document lab where the applicant studies basic literature, finishes projects and familiarizes themselves with forensics and questioned documents as they relate to the law.

Questioned document examination is a legitimate study field, and it should not be confused with graphology, where a person claims to be able to assess personality traits through handwriting samples. Regardless of the validity of these claims, some of these individuals claim enough expertise to determine the validity of a signature. However, only a forensic document examiner can do the job.