Richard Fraser M.D.
FORENSIC HANDWRITING EXAMINER
COURT QUALIFIED    FORGERY    BEHAVIOR PROFILING    MEDICAL MALPRACTICE
BOARD CERTIFIED INTERNAL MEDICINE & GERIATRIC MEDICINE
 
               QUESTIONED HANDWRITING EXAMINATION

        Everyone's handwriting/printing is different, as our fingerprints are unique as well as our physical makeup. Writing/printing is a complicated act requiring coordination of the brain, eyes, arms, fingers, muscles and nerves. In addition, writing/printing is influenced by our emotional state as well as life experiences and personality. Different people are gifted with various abilities for pictorial perception, eye-hand coordination and artistic ability.

        During the act of the writing/printing one finger pushes the writing instrument while another provides resistance thus causing the contraction and release of muscles that is needed to work together to push and pull the pen or other writing instrument. The wrist, the forearm, the upper arm, the upper body all have to be positioned properly for writing/printing to take place. This occurs within a split second as an unconscious act by the brain.

    Although no one signs their name or writes/prints exactly the same every time, the overall patterns style, and direction of our writing/printing remains the same. As a result handwriting/handprinting by the same person can usually be readily identified. Under study and examination certain idiosyncrasies (unconscious writing/printing patterns unique to one person) can be detected and identified even if the writing/printing is disguised.

The signs of forgery can be very subtle:

          

                                                      Authentic Tom Jones Signature              Forged Tom Jones Signature

        Document examination is based on the fact that it is virtually IMPOSSIBLE that two writings/printings are exactly alike in all characteristics such as style, speed, slant and spacing.

        In order for someone to disguise their writing/printing one needs to take what is mostly a subconscious act and make it a completely conscious act. A person can only do this for a short period of time before either reverting back to his/her own writing/printing style or displaying  unnaturalness to the writing/printing.

        It is impossible to fully suppress a person's own idiosyncrasies because writing/printing is essentially an unconscious act in which a person's brain is in control. After close inspection and analysis of disguised writing/printing one can typically find these idiosyncrasies. This is what document examiners look for to establish identification or non-identification.

What Is Required For Carrying Out An Investigation?

        In investigating signatures for possible forgery there are two types of documents that I use, the first being the questioned document. In order to determine authenticity, the questioned document is compared against known writings/printings of the suspect. These are referred to as standards or exemplars. Standards are documents recognized as proven, genuine or acknowledged that have been obtained from official records, personal files, personal letters, etc., and is known to be the product of a particular person.

1) The goal is to have as many standards as possible. 

2) The standards need to be shown to be genuine. 

3) A variety of medical conditions may need to be excluded as well and for this reason I will need to review any medical records and most importantly a copy of the autopsy report. By providing standards from the same time period one is able to show consistency in the handwriting/handprinting of the subject. For example a thirty, forty or fifty year old person may have noticeable differences in his/her writings from those penned in early teens or early twenties. Situations change. There is usually a difference in their stress and anxiety, personal and business finances, physical and mental health, use of medication, accidents, injuries, etc.

4) An opinion can be given based on photocopies, however examination of original documents is important, especially if the forgery is done by a tracing or computer. Examination of the original questioned document under a simple stereo microscope frequently adds information about writing style and can be used to demonstrate pressure differences in letter segments, subtle differences in letter formation, erasures, retracings, touching -up of the signature or use of a computer/photocopier. In many cases my report is considered only preliminary without my touching, examining and photographing the original questioned signature. Cost, time or travel are not considerations that would preclude me examining the original. There are several law firms that I can contact in the immediate area to act as a proxy in this matter.

        Basically the investigation consists of a detailed analysis and comparison of all the documents and exhibits and formulating an opinion of identification or non-identification. Office equipment frequently used consists of a stereo microscope, hand held magnifiers, a light box, manual calipers, dividers, protractors and rulers. Photocopy enlargements are also used for comparison purposes.

        Successful disguise depends upon the type and quantity of the writing/printing in question and the intelligence and manual dexterity of the perpetrator. The most common methods employed to disguise writing/printing included changes in slope, size, angularity, approach strokes, upper and lower extensions, capital letters, lower case letters and numbers. The arrangement of the writing, the spacing and alignment of the signature to the writing line are rarely considered by a person attempting to disguise.

        The average person cannot continue to disguise writing/printings on many pages at the same sitting. A subject who is attempting to disguise his/her writings/printings will frequently and subconsciously revert to his/her own natural writing/printing style even with the conscious and willful awareness of intentional disguise. Also, when someone tries to disguise their writing/printing they become self-conscious of a once automatic act and thus cause the handwriting/handprinting to display unnatural letter-stroke formations. These can be detected by careful examination and scrutiny. A variety of conditions need to be excluded as well:

Medical & Psychological Conditions:

        Medical, physical and psychological conditions can alter a personís handwriting/printing. In examining documents, one must determine if the alleged author of the questioned documents is currently (or has been) under the care of a licensed professional (medical doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist), taking prescription drugs or confined to a medical or psychological facility. Also one must assess if the alleged author had any injuries, accidents, illness or disabilities prior to the execution of the questioned document.

Alcohol & Drug Influenced Writings/Printings

        Unnatural writing/printing can also be caused by the author being heavily sedated or under the influence of mind-altering medications or sedatives. Various forms of substance abuse will have an effect upon the size, line quality and rhythm.

Mental Fatigue Or Impatience

        An examiner must determine when the questioned writings/printings were executed to determine or rule out whether the author was suffering mental fatigue. Fatigue can be detected in writings that are unusually sloppy, unexplained misspelled words, missing i-dots and/or t-bars, dropping finals, writing/printing slanting downward or through or below the preplaced signature line.

        Alternatively if the document was signed in haste, the examiner will find unexplained omissions, needless abbreviations, slashed i-dots and t-hars, unusually wide spacing and lack of punctuation.

Temporary Conditions

        Temporary conditions could encompass many variables. For this reason the examiner must obtain as much information as possible regarding medical and psychological history, accidents, injuries, illnesses and periods of disability. Also, the names and addresses of all witnesses and other relevant information must be obtained in order to verify all allegations to prove genuineness or forgery.

        As a document examiner I am searching for the unusual manner in which a letter stroke structure is formed. The unusual manner is an expression of the writer's/printer's individuality, a subconscious idiosyncrasy unique to him/her. By comparing exemplars and standards and the questioned documents looking most specifically for idiosyncrasies in the writing/printing that uniquely identify the author.

        Once able to detect and identify unusual writing/printing executed in a natural manner, then an identification can be made. Differences in letter stroke formation, deviations from writing systems as well as a consistency throughout all the documents in comparison are important considerations.

        Upon completion of the study and examination I will have formed an opinion as to whether your client was the author of the questioned signature. A written professional opinion as to significant differences in the writing/printing and the probable reason for them will be offered.

FYI: Handwriting analysis and the art of forgery detection have many names, including document examination, questioned document examination, questioned writing analysis, handwriting evaluation, questioned handwriting examination, questioned signature verification, forgery evaluation, forgery analysis. A handwriting examiner is also referred to as a document examiner, handwriting expert, handwriting specialist, handprinting examiner, handprinting expert or a specialist in forgery detection. Questioned document examination and forgery detection differ from graphology also called behavior profiling in that a questioned document examiner is concerned about authenticating the writing through comparison with know samples, as compared to evaluating the psychological and personality traits of the author.