Obtaining Handwriting Samples and Exemplars
THEORY OF “APPLES AND ORANGES”
1. The document examiner cannot compare different styles of handwriting – such as cursive to print or print to cursive.
If handwriting is script (cursive) style – obtain script (cursive) style samples
If handwriting is print style – obtain print style
If handwriting is cursive/print combination – obtain cursive/print samples
If written in upper case letters – obtain samples written in upper case letters
If written in lower case letters – obtain samples written in lower case letters
If written in pencil – obtain samples written in pencil
If written in ink – obtain samples written in ink
If written in felt tip – obtain samples written in felt tip
If written on plain paper (without lines) – obtain samples on plain paper
If written on lined paper – obtain samples on lined paper
If document is a check – use blank check forms about the same size
Use paper of similar size and type on which the Questioned writing is written.
2. The examiner must have similar letters and letter combinations to conduct detailed inter-comparisons. (i.e., the letters in the name “Ellen Jones” cannot be compared with the letters in the name “Maria Smith” or “August” to “December”.
- It is preferred that originals of the questioned and known documents be provided for comparison purposes. In the event that originals are not readily available, good and clean photocopies can be used for examination.
- It is preferred that, if available, known writing and/or signature samples be contemporaneous in time to the writing and/or signature(s) in question (six months to one year before and/or after).
- It is preferred that a good number samples of known writing and/or signatures be provided.
a. It is preferred that at a minimum, if a signature is in question, that at least ten or more known signatures be provided. This will assist the examiner in determining the natural variation in the person’s signatures.
b. For handwriting comparisons it is important that the known and questioned writings are of the same writing style and that they both contain several similar letters and letter combinations.
- The line quality of facsimile copies is often too poor for inter-comparison purposes. The electronic transmission process often causes the line quality to be ragged, and they are of limited value in conducting inter-comparison examinations.
- The line quality of writing on “multi generation” photocopies (a document that is a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy, etc.) often become distorted or broken and thus are of limited value in conducting inter-comparison examinations.
- The quality of micro-fiche copies is often poor and thus of limited value in conducting inter-comparison examination.
POSSIBLE SOURCES FOR HANDWRITING AND/OR SIGNATURES
Personal or Business Checks
Greeting Cards or Invitations
Membership Applications and Cards
Handwritten Telephone Directories
Handwritten Notes or Messages
Handwritten Bill of Sales
Social Club Applications
Motor Vehicle Forms
Property Deeds, Mortgages, Trusts, etc.
Permit/ Licenses Applications
Equipment Rental Forms
SUGGESTED METHODS OF TAKING SAMPLES/EXEMPLARS
1. Review the questioned material in advance and know what you wish to obtain.
2. Obtain the specimens in the beginning and end of interview or deposition.
3. Subject should be seated comfortably at a table and made to feel at ease.
4. The material (questioned writing or signatures) you are requesting should be dictated. Do not show or have in view of the subject any of the questioned material.
5. Obtain non-related writing first as “warm-ups” – exemplar forms, personal history information forms, paragraph from newspaper, etc.
6. Obtain several samples – if subject is attempting to disguise his or her writing, the more the person writes, the more he or she will return to writing naturally. Five to ten separate pages of extended text or exemplar forms is usually enough.
7. Use separate sheets of paper and/or exemplars forms.
8. As each exemplar is completed, turn the paper over or remove the paper from view of subject, so subject cannot copy what he or she wrote on the previous exemplars. This will assist in identifying disguised handwriting and also have the subject write naturally.
9. If questioned writing is a signature only – Do not have subject write signature consecutively on the same sheet of paper – have subject write signature at least fifteen (15) to twenty (20) times – one or two on separate sheets of paper
10. If questioned writing is extended (lengthy) text, select one paragraph or several sentences you want the subject to write. Either dictate the material you want the subject to write or have it written or typed onto a piece of paper. An exception to this list is listed in paragraph 11 below.
11. Dictate certain words that may have been misspelled in the questioned material and have subject write them several times. Do not spell words for the subject!
12. Pause between each exemplar taken so as to avoid mental copying of the writing in the previous exemplars. Don’t be afraid to talk to the subject; this will assist in avoiding copying of the writing in the previous exemplar by the subject.
13. Obtain as many specimens as possible.
14. Do not instruct the subject as to the formation of letters or how specimens should be written
15. If subject appears to be attempting to disguise his or her writing, take a pause and remove samples from his or her view. Mention your suspicion to the subject and then ask him or her to write slower or faster.
16. If the questioned writing appears to have been authored with the subject’s awkward hand, obtain some exemplars written with his or her awkward hand.