BY Preeti Shah | February 02, 2022
Questioned document examination is one of the essential branches of forensic science in which the handwriting experts discuss their findings regarding the authenticity or ownership of a questioned document. Various tools and techniques are used to study the different physical and chemical attributes of a written document. These can include handwriting, typewriting, rubber stamps, ink, pencil, paper, or printing processes, among several others.
The primary goal of a questioned document examiner is to establish a link between a specific document and a particular writing instrument or process used to create that document. If you have a question about the authenticity of a written document, or if you need help to find out if a person is lying about how a document was created, a questioned document examiner can help.
Questioned document examination (QDE) analyzes and evaluates documents to establish their authenticity and resolve questions related to them. By analyzing the physical and chemical properties of a document, as well as the handwriting, printing, and typeface, QDE experts can often determine whether a document is authentic or not.
Following are a few document types that might require analysis by a forensic questioned document examiner:
1. Bank Drafts
3. Laminated Documents
5. Photocopied Documents
8. ID Cards
10. Currency notes
11. Stamp Papers
12. Typed letters
14. Suicide notes
Sometimes forensic document examination is also carried out on documents not bearing any physical mark. These include burned and shredded documents and documents containing impressions when kept below other documents while writing.
Following are a few cases that need forensic analysis for different types of questioned documents:
1. White-collar crimes
2. Bank Robberies
5. Contested Wills
6. Identity Theft
12. Medical Malpractices
13. Title/Deed Lawsuits
15. Contested Contracts
Questioned document examiners (QDE) are forensic scientists who analyze a variety of documents for their authenticity by using various techniques to determine whether it has been altered, and if so, how.
QDEs work with law enforcement agencies to help solve criminal cases. For example, if a suspect tries to pass off a fake document as the real one, the QDE can examine it and determine if it has been forged. You can use this evidence in court to help prove the suspect's guilt.
They usually follow an investigation process divided into four stages. These are:
1. Analysis: The questioned document and the known exemplars are analyzed, and a list of detectable characteristics is made.
2. Comparison: The questioned item characteristics are compared against the known standard.
3. Evaluation: Similarities and differences are evaluated after comparison. A final report is prepared based on each characteristic's uniqueness and frequency of occurrence.
4. Validation: It is optional and involves verifying the final result by another expert.
A questioned document examiner's primary focus is to determine the genuineness of the document in question by closely examining the document's writing, paper, printing, and other features.
QDEs use several simple and complex techniques to examine whether the document has been altered and can help narrow down the possible suspects in a forgery case.
A few techniques (destructive and non-destructive) used to determine the legitimacy of the document are:
These techniques examine the physical characteristics of the document and its components by using methods such as liquid chromatography or exposing questioned document to infrared radiation.
This technique examines variations in handwriting, typewriting, or printing to identify if they were intentionally made by the author or someone else.
This technique detects indentations or impressions that might have been made on paper lying below the questioned document when an individual was trying to forge or copy a signature.
These kinds of alterations are not visible to the naked eye but can be easily detected by photography and UV/IR imaging devices.
This technique examines for evidence that an unauthorized individual has copied a seal instead of being applied by an authorized person.
This technique examines fingerprints found on a questioned document to identify the origin of the prints. The most conclusive method of fingerprint identification is through the use of fingerprints recovered from crime scenes, latent prints lifted from objects touched by a suspect, and known exemplars taken from individuals suspected of writing the questioned document.
Questioned document examination facilitates the discovery of many forgeries by studying a document for any inconsistencies that may suggest the person did not create it as it is claimed. To carry out the examination process smoothly, examiners use various tools to help them. These include:
2. Comparison microscope
3. Magnifying glass or lens
5. Camera microscope
6. Video Spectral Comparator (VSC)
7. Electrostatic Detection Apparatus (ESDA)
10. Ultraviolet light
How to become a Questioned Document Examiner?
Handwriting examination requires document examiners to distinguish forged handwriting from a genuine one, and it helps them confirm or exclude suspects from the investigation.
Becoming an expert in this field requires several years of intense study and work experience and continuously updating yourself with the new technology.
To begin your journey as a questioned document examiner, you can enroll in a basic to an advanced certificate or diploma course from a reputable institute.
If you plan to do this course, you can read the complete procedure, eligibility criteria, curriculum, and Document and Handwriting Examination course duration.
Questioned document examination is a field of forensic science that deals with examining and analyzing documents, both handwritten and typed. These examinations are carried out to determine whether the handwriting on a questioned document matches the known exemplar or not.
Several tools and techniques are used in questioned document examination to help determine whether a document has been altered or not.
Sherlock Institute of Forensic Science (SIFS INDIA) is a government-recognized private forensic science laboratory and institute in Delhi with branches all over India. They provide several questioned document examination services to verify the document’s authenticity.
They also have a team of in-house forensic experts and freelancers with several years of experience in providing training and conducting workshops for students and corporates.