Forensic Document Examiners



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What We Do

  • We believe that ethics should be above reproach - sometimes our opinion is contrary to the interests of the client.

  • We are skilled at determining authenticity or non-genuineness when provided with adequate quality and quantity of exemplars.

  • We employ well-established practices and protocols in conducting examinations and lab procedures.

  • We believe in maintaining a high level of quality by attending continuing education opportunities and participating in advanced training and research.

The examination of the credentials, protocols and methodology, and opinions of an opposing expert, as performed in a consultant's role to the attorney or client is highly recommended.

  • No ethical standard is breached when an examiner performs in this role and consults with the attorney.
  • Different levels of confidence in expert opinions may exist, generating the need for inspection and analysis.
  • Production of fair and impartial questions to be used in vigorous cross-examination is also ethical. This ensures that high standards for the profession of Forensic Document Examination are met, benefiting the triers of fact.
  • We do not render opinions or conclusions beyond what the evidence will support.
    Our fees and reporting are based on examination time, and are never based on contingency of the outcome of the case.

Selecting a Forensic Document Examiner

A wide range of knowledge, skill, experience, training, and education exists in any forensic specialty, including document examination. Length of experience in years, status as a member or trainee of a government lab or program, or holder of a number of certifications and professional accolades does not always ensure a level of competence.

In particular, certifications should be investigated fully, as some are not the equivalent in substance or rigorous standards as others.

An expert's education and training background should be assessed, along with court experience, references, and professional affiliations such as FSAB, BFDE and AFDE.

A document examiner should also have the ability to perform certain non-destructive procedures using specialized lighting techniques, imaging, and development of indented impressions. ASTM guidelines outline lab equipment in “Scope of Work Relating to Document Examiners.”

These guidelines propose a fully-equipped Questioned Document Lab would include microscopes, imaging devices, lighting methods (including those involving radiant energy in the ultraviolet, visible, infrared and other regions of the electromagnetic spectrum), as well as electrostatic devices for the detection and/or visualization of indentations present in or on paper or similar substrata. The chain of evidence, which includes the care, custody and control of original documents is of paramount importance. Therefore, in-house equipment and capabilities is the hallmark of a full-service lab.

Forensic techniques and applications are employed in reputable document labs; scientific methods and principles provide a firm basis for the opinions and conclusions expressed by the examiners.

Evidence preservation and collection

No attempts to perform “informal” examination should be done, as even the most well-intentioned efforts can compromise further investigation. For instance, the application of ninhydrin or other agents used in the development of fingerprints prior to document examination can cause irreparable harm.

Care should be taken to avoid folding, stapling, highlighting, marking, or even excessively handling documents. Numerous examinations have been rendered useless by careless handling. The evidence should be maintained in the original condition, unless there are special circumstances. If any doubt exists, a qualified examiner should be consulted prior to any action taken.

Gathering of exemplars, or standards is a skill unto itself, and should not be undertaken without commonsense practices. Each examiner will have certain protocols that are to be followed, whether it is a handwriting comparison, printer or copier examination or other course of action. Consult with an examiner before proceeding.

Also, do not forget to include all materials in an investigation such as envelopes, folders, notebooks, etc. All elements should be carefully scrutinized as to their value.

Attempt to package materials in a moisture proof or protective material with a minimum of handling. Also, do not place other objects on top of the materials as this could affect any indented images.

With today's high quality copiers, photocopied materials are often of sufficient quality for initial examination. However, originals will always be first choice and often will be the definitive evidence.

Facsimile copies are mostly of little use for comparative purposes as the fax process renders poor quality detail.

In the case of documents that are water-soaked, charred, or contaminated with serological or biological contaminants, use extreme care and consult before any investigation is undertaken.

(800) 379-3988

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