Briefly, a forensic document examiner can assist in the examination, investigation, or comparison of documents that are in dispute, or might become so. These are sometimes known as questioned documents.
The types of forensic document examinations that can be done by physical examination are varied. They all are, generally, related to proving (or disproving) common authorship, or, to demonstrate some manner of document falsification, or alteration. Aging of a document by inks, papers and type-faces used (as well as the method of creation) is done as well.
These examinations are, generally, done by some visual means. The written reports (or findings) of these examinations are, generally, used by lawyers. If the lawyer, then, wishes to pursue the issue further, in a court of law, the report is, generally, testified to by the examiner using exhibits of the visual findings.
Non-destructive, restorative techniques for documents that have aged and faded, or that have been obliterated by stains, or pigments, are done as well. Through imaging methods, fire damaged documents may be fully, or partially, restored to a more readable and much more stable state.
Some of the typical documents that are disputed might be:
- Bills of sale, or contractual documents
- Medical records
- Credit card documents
- Time cards
- Anonymous notes
- Insurance documents
- Other legal documents - both governmental and non-governmental
- Ransom notes and hold-up notes, etc.
Some typical types of examinations might be:
- Comparing known handwriting for common authorship with unknown writing
- Examination for signs of alteration within a document
- Examining for insertions, substitutions, etc., in a document
- Typewriter and checkwriter identification
- Photo-copier identification
- Examinations of computer generated documents for signs of alteration, or possible authentication problems, etc.
Some typical forensic visualization techniques might be:
- Traditional (visible spectrum) imaging
- Traditional copy, macro & photo-micrographic imaging - to include specialized lighting techniques
- Visible spectrum filter work for color drop, or gain
- Reflected infrared and infrared luminescent imaging (above the 700nm wavelength) for faded and obliterated documents, ink (and paper) differentiation and charred documents.
- Reflected ultraviolet (below 400nm) and ultraviolet fluorescent imaging (ultraviolet excitation with visible wavelength capture) for paper examination, ink differentiation, signs of alterations, etc.
- Transmitted light imaging for watermark identification
- Oblique light imaging for disturbances and indented writing
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