Forensic Document Examination is a branch of forensic science that plays a crucial role in disputes involving signatures or handwriting. Questioned document examiners are sought to examine handwritten/typewritten documents such as wills, suicide notes, stamp papers etc. to verify its authenticity and source. In one of our previous blogs, we had discussed Questioned Documents and its types. The following sections shall enlighten you on the methods of questioned document analysis and handwriting analysis.
Defining a Questioned Document
A Questioned Document is any handwritten/typewritten document having a questionable authenticity and subjected to a forensic document examination. Questioned document examiners define a ‘questioned document’ as any piece of evidence that bears symbols, marks or signs meant for a communication.
Handwritten Questioned Document
Questioned document analysis of handwritten documents (wills, suicide notes, checks etc.) involves a careful handwriting analysis by questioned document examiners. Forensic handwriting analysis experts can draw crucial conclusions about the document’s source and authenticity by examining the handwriting and indentation on the document.
Typewritten Questioned Document
A typewritten questioned document can include anything from bank drafts to stamp papers and passports. Forensic document examiners who analyze typewritten documents are adept at examining the ink, and even printers, fax and photocopy machines, and typewriters. This helps them detect any alternations, obliterations or erasures in the questioned document.
Some Common Types of Questioned Documents
The methods of questioned document analysis vary as per the different types of questioned documents. The easy availability and interface of photo editing software have made editing/altering typewritten documents an effortless task for unscrupulous agents. Document examiners examine 3 basic components of a dubious document – signature, handwriting, and typewriting.
Some of the common cases of documents subjected to questioned document analysis are bank drafts, checks, wills, suicide notes, agreements, contracts, ID cards, passports, currency, stamp papers and any other laminated, typewritten or photocopied documents having a questionable source or authenticity.
The Work of Questioned Document Examiners
Questioned Document Examiners conduct questioned document analysis on various documents such as wills, ID cards, bank documents and much more. The methods of questioned document analysis involve handwriting examination, and analysis of ink, paper, printing, typewriters etc. to determine if the questioned document is authentic or not.
Forensic Document Examiners need to precisely record every step of the forensic document examination. They prepare a detailed report about the methods and process of the document examination. Document examiners are often also required to testify in the court if the case involves a documentary evidence.
Collecting Questioned Document from a Crime Scene
The presence of any document bearing a handwritten/typewritten text needs to be carefully checked at a crime scene. Investigators need to collect and preserve any such document that may be relevant to the crime. This could include different types of questioned documents such as ransom notes, signed contracts, or suicide notes.
The crime scene investigator records the location of the discovery of the document at the crime scene. In case the document involves a handwritten text, the investigator needs to look out for other handwritten samples for comparison against the questioned document. For documentary evidence, it is crucial for investigators to ensure minimum handling to avoid tampering of the evidence.
An Overview of the Different Methods of Questioned Document Analysis
Questioned Document Examiners either work for public/government laboratories or as private examiners in their own laboratories. Forensic labs lacking questioned document analysis facilities either send the evidence to another laboratory or engage a private document examiner.
A Typical Questioned Document Analysis Lab
Even the simplest questioned document analysis lab contains basic video analysis tools, microscopes, digital imaging instruments, and UV and IR light sources. Other specialized equipment include electrostatic detection device and other tools for the application of analytical chemistry. The methods of questioned document analysis are broadly classified into destructive and non-destructive techniques.
Non-destructive & Destructive Methods of Questioned Document Analysis
Most questioned document examiners use the non-destructive methods of questioned document analysis. These involve the use of electrostatics and/or light for examining documents. It helps in determining any ink differentiations or indented impressions on the documentary evidence.
Liquid chromatography is one of the commonly used destructive methods of questioned document analysis. This technique involves the reaction of a small piece of the document containing the ink with a special solvent. The ink is then subjected to liquid chromatography that helps determine its source and components.
For documents generated using typewriters, photocopiers, printers or fax machines, questioned document examiners refer various databases for comparison. When conducting handwriting analysis, questioned document examiners compare multiple samples of handwriting from particular populations.
Methods of Questioned Document Analysis
Examination of Indented Impressions
A questioned document may sometimes contain indented impressions. The Electrostatic Detection Device helps identify such impressions that are not visible to the naked eye. This makes use of electric charges and toner to highlight the areas having indented writing. It works on a basic scientific principle that indented areas carry lesser negative charges than nearby areas. This causes the toner to get attracted to these areas, thus revealing the indentation on the document.
This technique has helped to recover indented impressions from nearly seven layers of paper underneath the actual document. In fact, up to 60-year-old well-preserved documents when subjected to this technique can reveal indented impressions.
Detection of Page Substitutions, Erasures, Alternations and Obliterations
Questioned Document Examiners use a special form of photography combined with ultraviolet and infrared light to detect erasures, alternations, and obliteration that are hard to detect with naked eyes.
Imaging instruments such as Video Spectral Comparator (VSC) use radiations of varying wavelengths to disclose writing in a different ink. Its basic principle is the varying response of different inks to varying wavelengths of light. This helps detect altered or deleted writing. For example, a document written in ink faded over time can be more legible by subjecting it to a particular wavelength of radiation.
Determination of Dye Components of Ink
Questioned document examiners use liquid chromatography to determine the individual components of the ink used on a document. This is one of the destructive methods of questioned document analysis.
In this technique, a small piece of the questioned document containing the ink is dissolved in a special solvent. It is then analyzed and the components of the ink compared with an international database. This helps questioned document examiners deduce the source of the ink and other vital information about the document.
Examination of Machine Printed or Typewritten Documents
Questioned Document Examiners are capable of determining the exact model or make of typewritten documents or those printed with photocopiers, laser or inkjet printers, or fax machines. This enables them to zero down on the exact device used to produce the document and hence gives them significant leads during an investigation.
Questioned document analysis of typewritten or printed documents also enables document experts to identify the exact printing process involved. They are adept at examining the printing machine and its parts to draw crucial insights into the documentary evidence.
Examination of Seals & Stamps
Some questioned documents bear watermarks, seals or rubber stamp impressions, or other mechanically produced marks. Questioned document examiners collect these along with any other suspected device. This may include papers or other substrates, sealing devices, writing instruments, rubber stamps or printing devices.
Handwriting Analysis of Questioned Documents
The examination of the handwriting on a questioned document throws a critical light on its source and authenticity. Handwriting analysis experts are adept at identifying obstructions in the normal flow of writing, as well as unusual tremors or alterations. This helps to deduce the involvement of an unnatural writing process (disguise, simulation etc.) in the questioned document under analysis.
Experts of handwriting analysis can make out the natural variations in an individual’s handwriting from major differences denoting a malpractice. It is important for the investigator to collect all possible samples of writing for the purpose of comparison. Investigators are ideally required to collect 20-30 samples of signatures, 15-20 samples of checks and 3-4 samples of written letters.
Laws in the Indian Penal Code for Different Types of Questioned Documents
Several sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deal with a forged or questioned document. Following are the relevant sections:
- Section 466 (IPC): Imitation of a record of a Court of Justice or of a Registrar of Births, etc., held by a public servant.
- Section 471 (IPC):Using a forged document as genuine.
- Section 472 (IPC): Developing or counterfeiting a seal, plate, etc., with the intent of committing a forgery punishable under section 467 of the IPC, or possessing with like intent any such seal, plate, etc., knowing the same to be forged.
- Section 489 A (IPC): Counterfeiting bank or currency notes.
Shortcomings of Questioned Document Analysis
Document analysis is challenging for evidence such as faxes or photocopies that are not the original form of the document. The original document loses its original characteristics with every reproduction. Such non-original evidence is often of poor quality and does not qualify for a proper examination.
Inadequate Quantity and Quality
Insufficient quantity of the evidence or sample documents limits the chances of the document examiner to draw conclusive facts. Similarly, poor quality of questioned documents also poses a challenge to a questioned document examiner. Examples include multiple-reproduced copies, burnt or shredded documents, or documents bearing completely disguised/distorted writing.
Lack of Concurrent Writing Samples
The lack of contemporaneous writing samples for comparison is a shortcoming of questioned document analysis. Drawing definitive conclusions about a questioned document require samples of writing prepared in nearly the same time period as the one under examination.
Incognito Forensic Foundation – A Private Forensics Lab for Questioned Document Analysis in India
Incognito Forensic Foundation (IFF Lab) is a private forensic lab headquartered in Bangalore and having a PAN Indian presence. Its questioned document analysis lab houses microscopes, IR and UV light sources, video analysis tools, digital imaging instruments, and other specialized tools for forensic document examination. IFF Lab’s repertoire of qualified questioned document experts is adept at analyzing different types of forged documents.
- Optical Method.
- Police Technique.
- Document Examination.
- Optical Examination.
- Scanning Electron Microscope Method.
Forensic document examiners are most frequently asked to resolve questions of authorship. Is the signature on the mortgage loan genuine? Who wrote the anonymous note? Did the deceased sign the will?What tools or information does an Examiner need to analyze a questioned document? ›
A typical Questioned Documents unit in a crime laboratory is equipped with microscopes, digital imaging instrumentation, infrared and ultraviolet light sources, video analysis tools and specialized equipment including electrostatic detection devices (EDD) and materials to perform analytical chemistry.What are the three 3 procedures in document handwriting examination? ›
He discusses the steps that a forensic document examiner follows, including analysis, comparison, and evaluation.What are questioned documents and how they are Analysed? ›
The methods of questioned document analysis involve handwriting examination, and analysis of ink, paper, printing, typewriters etc. to determine if the questioned document is authentic or not. Forensic Document Examiners need to precisely record every step of the forensic document examination.What is Document Analysis Research? ›
Document analysis is a form of qualitative research in which documents are interpreted by the researcher/assessor to give voice and meaning around an assessment topic. Analyzing documents includes coding content into themes, similar to how focus group or interview transcripts are analyzed.What is the role of a questioned document examiner? ›
Forensic document examiners, also often referred to as questioned document examiners, are forensic scientists who are responsible for using a number of scientific processes and methods for examining documents—whether written, typed, or printed—related to a crime scene investigation.What is the purpose of a document examiner? ›
Job Description of Forensic Document Examiner
Examining signatures to determine if they have been forged or altered. Comparing handwriting similarities and differences to determine the source of the handwriting from potential suspects. Inspecting printed documents to determine the type of printing processes.
A document examiner in a police department has some prob- lems that are different from those of civil practice. In police work it is usually most important to identify the forger, while in civil work it is usually enough to prove that an instruinent is a forgery.What are the most common methods of altering documents? ›
- Additional markings.
- Indented writing.
What is the first thing to be done by a questioned document examiner when called upon to examine printed documents? ›
Here the examiner is called upon to determine if a particular person was the author of a document. The examiner compares characteristics of the questioned document with those of a document either previously written by the suspect or purposely taken as a known handwriting sample, also called an exemplar.What is evaluation in questioned document examination? ›
Evaluation – After analysis and comparison Document examiner need to evaluate the characteristics and properties of questioned sample and standard sample so that each details of samples can be determined.What 3 parts of a questioned document can be examined to determine authenticity? ›
To determine whether a document is genuine, an examiner may attempt to confirm who created the document, determine the timeframe in which it was created, identify the materials used in its preparation or uncover modifications to the original text.What is handwriting analysis called? ›
graphology, inference of character from a person's handwriting. The theory underlying graphology is that handwriting is an expression of personality; hence, a systematic analysis of the way words and letters are formed can reveal traits of personality.What is Document Analysis in forensic? ›
Forensic Document Examination (FDE) is a forensic science discipline in which expert examiners evaluate documents disputed in the legal system. “Documents” may be defined broadly as being any material bearing marks, signs or symbols intended to convey a message or meaning to someone.What is non destructive method of document analysis? ›
The main method of non-destructive ink analysis is micro-spectrophotometry . This involves scanning the ink with ultraviolet or infrared light to record its spectrum, that is, the wavelengths of light it absorbs. Some inks fluoresce, or emit light, on exposure to ultraviolet, while others disappear.How many stages of handwriting analysis are there? ›
Handwriting analysis involves three key stages including the analysis, comparison, and evaluation of the handwriting characteristics.What kind of method is document analysis? ›
Document analysis is a qualitative research technique used by researchers . The process involves evaluating electronic and physical documents to interpret them, gain an understanding of their meaning and develop upon the information they provide.What is document analysis method of data collection? ›
Document analysis is a method of data collection which involves analysis of content from written documents in order to make certain deductions based on the study parameters. The method is mainly used in qualitative research as a method of qualitative analysis.What is an advantage of using document analysis as a research method? ›
Advantages of document analysis
The analysis of the data does not disturb the operational sequence or only minimally. The effort required to prepare the analysis is much less than for field observation, interviews or the requirements workshop. The analysis of the data can be interrupted and continued at any time.
The three main areas of forensic document examination
The identification of individuals through their handwriting. Determining whether signatures are genuine or simulations. Determining the origin and history of documents.
In forensic science, questioned document examination (QDE) is the examination of documents potentially disputed in a court of law. Its primary purpose is to provide evidence about a suspicious or questionable document using scientific processes and methods.What are the 12 applicable tools and equipment in questioned document examination? ›
Instruments used in the questioned document section include: Video Spectral Comparator (VSC), Electrostatic Detection Apparatus (ESDA), Stereo-Microscope, Spectrophotometer, and Fingerprint Live Scanner etc.What examination technique is used for detecting erasures? ›
Examination of invisible ink can be done by using UV rays. It plays an important role in detecting and decipherment of chemically erased writing. The action of the chemical erasure often changes the fluorescence of paper and most of the chemical erasure can be detected and photographed by UV rays.What 3 parts of a questioned document can be examined to determine authenticity? ›
To determine whether a document is genuine, an examiner may attempt to confirm who created the document, determine the timeframe in which it was created, identify the materials used in its preparation or uncover modifications to the original text.What is the difference between a questioned document and questioned documents? ›
They are the same thing. The older term is Questioned Document Examiner or sometimes "Examiner of Questioned Documents." In the 1970's, the term Forensic Document Examiner started becoming more popular and that is the term most commonly used today.What are the most common methods of altering documents? ›
- Additional markings.
- Indented writing.
Forensic document examiners, also often referred to as questioned document examiners, are forensic scientists who are responsible for using a number of scientific processes and methods for examining documents—whether written, typed, or printed—related to a crime scene investigation.What is the main purpose of document examination? ›
The examination's primary purpose is to provide evidence about suspicious or questioned documents using a variety of scientific principles and methods. Document examination might include alterations, obliterations, paper analysis, forgery, origin, determining authenticity, or any other questions.What is the importance of paper document examination in solving crime? ›
The purposes of questioned document examination are many. Such examinations can help determine the authenticity of a document, the source of the forgery (if present), if a crime was committed - as well as what kind of crime - and much more.
What is the first thing to be done by a questioned document examiner when called upon to examine printed documents? ›
Here the examiner is called upon to determine if a particular person was the author of a document. The examiner compares characteristics of the questioned document with those of a document either previously written by the suspect or purposely taken as a known handwriting sample, also called an exemplar.Why is handwriting identification important in the study of questioned document examination? ›
The handwriting specimens of suspects can be submitted for comparison with those on the letters to determine if they could be traced to a particular person. Handwriting examination is also widely used in cases where authorship of a document is denied or disputed.What is non destructive method of document analysis? ›
The main method of non-destructive ink analysis is micro-spectrophotometry . This involves scanning the ink with ultraviolet or infrared light to record its spectrum, that is, the wavelengths of light it absorbs. Some inks fluoresce, or emit light, on exposure to ultraviolet, while others disappear.What are the major methods used to look for erasures in documents? ›
The erasures are primarily carried out chemically or mechanically, which can be detected by several techniques like oblique lighting, microscope, fuming method, heating of the document, ultraviolet rays, Infrared luminescence, etc.What are common tools used in handwriting analysis? ›
Some of these tools will include metric rulers, calipers, and various glass alignment plates. Another tool that will be of great use for many handwriting experts is a measurement reticle. This magnifying eyepiece has an engraved measurement scale for greater precision when comparing documents.