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Guidelines for Forensic Document Examination, Part 4

NCJ Number
Forensic Science Communications Volume: 2 Issue: 2 Dated: April 2000 Pages: 1-8
Date Published
April 2000
8 pages
The FBI Laboratory's Scientific Working Group for Forensic Document Examination presents its Guideline for the Examination of Nonoriginal Handwritten Items.
The purpose of the guideline is to assist forensic document examiners in determining whether or not two or more handwritten items, at least one of which is nonoriginal, were written by the same person. The guideline requires that the document examiner have the following available: a light source of sufficient intensity to distinguish fine detail in reproductions, an optical instrument capable of sufficient magnification to distinguish fine detail in reproductions, and sufficient time to complete the procedures specified in this guideline. The introduction to the description of the procedures advises that all steps should be performed when applicable; however, it is not required that the steps be performed in the order given in the guideline. First, determine whether the questioned writing is a reproduction of the original. If so, the guideline procedures should be followed. Alternative procedures are indicated, depending on decisions made at various examination points. First, it should be determined whether or not the questioned writing has been reproduced with sufficient resolution for comparison purposes. If not, a request for the original or a better quality copy should be made. If neither exists or is submitted, the examination should be discontinued and report accordingly. Next, it should be determined whether or not the questioned writing and/or known writing appears to be distorted. If not, the questioned writing should be evaluated for the following: type of writing, internal consistency, range of variation of the writing for each subset or sub-subset of the questioned writing, and the presence or absence of identifying characteristics. A side-by-side comparison of questioned writing and known writing should be conducted. Procedures for doing this are described. Finally, an opinion should be formed, which should be guided by criteria specified in the guideline. A glossary and 7 references