What exactly does a forensic document examiner do? As a document examiner, I specialize in the examination of documents, analyze signatures and handwriting, and will testify in court as an expert in document examination. Document examination is a science that requires continued education and specialized skills in a variety of different areas. As a document examiner, I am able to distinguish forgeries and altered documents from the original and true documents. 

Handwriting and Signature Analysis

As a document examiner, I examine and review all sorts of documents for handwriting and signature analysis. Everyone in the world develops their own unique way of writing. There are many, many types of style variations. No two people will share enough of the same style variations to be the same. I compare and contrast handwriting with a variety of different samples so I can get an overview of a person’s writing style and make an accurate analysis of the handwriting. I use more advanced procedures in my lab and office. Then, I can determine if documents are forgeries or if they have been altered or changed in some way.

The most common request I get as a forensic document examiner is signature analysis. We sign all sorts of legal papers, checks, and forms every day. People try to forge signatures to alter legal cases, get themselves out of trouble, or forge checks and other documents. Each signature is as unique as a fingerprint. If you look at each of your own signatures, you’ll see that they are all similar but no two are exactly the same.

Sometimes signatures are forged with an autopen. An autopen is a small machine with a mechanical “hand” that can write and sign signatures to look very close to a person’s handwriting. And don’t be fooled into thinking that this machine is something only a few have access to! Some of these machines don’t cost very much and are readily available. A qualified document examiner can tell whether something was written with an autopen.

What does a forensic document examiner do to determine if the text was written by an autopen? First of all, autopen writings have more of a drawn appearance without the typical flow of text written by humans. Because of this, the ink is usually even and constant from beginning to end. There is no variance in the pressure of pen strokes. An autopen uses real pens and other writing instruments, so the ink can smudge and run just like it would from other signatures or text.

Kathy Conducting a Handwriting Analysis

Using a microscope to closely examine a document.

Examining the Finer Details

Document examiners do not just look at the obvious differences. I use a variety of microscopes, lights, cameras, and other equipment to examine even the tiniest details in documents and text. To get started, I prefer to have 20 samples of writing if possible to make an accurate comparison. To start, I first look at the form of the characters to see how they are written and styled.

Next, I start to look closer by examining the individual strokes that make up the letters. By looking at how light or dark they are and how much or how little the paper is indented, I will be able to tell the pressure that was used. This can also give insight into if the person wrote quickly or slow and careful. I’ll also examine the formatting of the paragraphs, lines, spacing, and other elements that make up a document. By looking at all of these minute details, I can determine if the document is authentic, fake, or if it has been changed in some way.

Continued Education

New technology and new methods are always coming out that can help me make more thorough examinations of documents. New technology and methods also are developed that make it easier for people to forge and alter documents. This is why my continued education is important. I have studied handwriting examination and apprenticed under some of the leading court-qualified experts. Read more about me and my continued education.

Whether you need assistance with forged documents, are trying to identify signatures, or have other issues that could benefit from document examination, handwriting analysis, or signature analysis, I would be happy to help! Contact me to get started and learn more about my services.