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Questioned Documents

The Questioned Documents section offers a variety of examinations including:


Handwriting and Hand Printing Identification

Questioned vs Known WritingThe comparative examination of signatures, handwriting, and hand printing is based on the principle that after an individual has developed his or her handwriting skills and habits, a number of factors combine that make that person's handwriting individual to him or herself.  The Forensic Document Examiner is trained to recognize and place value on the significance of the various characteristics observed in the writing and render a finding based on their examinations.

Indented Writing Examination

ESDAIndented writing or typing can occur when two or more papers are stacked or padded together and writing or typing occurs on the top sheet that leaves impressions or indentations on the sheet(s) below it.  The sheet immediately below the written or typed sheet usually contains the clearest imprint; however, impressions can sometimes be deciphered on the second and lower sheets. 
Forensic Document Examiners develop indented writing on a document using an instrument called the Electrostatic Detection Apparatus or ESDA.

Photocopier Identification

The identification of a photocopy requires that the method of production be similar (class characteristics) and that a unique pattern of defects (trash marks) be present on the platen, drum and/or lens.  Recent color copiers also may incorporate anti-counterfeiting technology which may be used to identify a specific machine.

Ink Examination

Check Forgery Ink ExaminationInk is analyzed in order to see whether it is similar to or different from other inks.  This becomes important when examining a document for the presence of alterations or obliterations. It is rare to say that ink from written material came from a particular pen.  At best, ink analysis shows whether the questioned ink and a suspected source could contain the same kind of ink.

Paper Examination

As part of a document examination, it is often necessary to examine the paper of the document(s) in order to help determine whether the document is genuine or to gain investigative information.
Other Examinations include the detection of alterations and obliterations, identification of counterfeit documents, reconstruction of burned or otherwise damaged documents and typewriter and mechanical impression identification

What’s New

BCA Questioned Documents Section Receives Grant

Approximately $400,000 was awarded by the Office of Justice Programs to fund research to evaluate The Development of Individual Handwriting Characteristics and the Statistical Evaluation of Different Combination Likelihoods of These Individual Characteristics.  Though forensic handwriting examinations and testimony have been admissible in United State’s courtrooms since being addressed by Federal Statute Title 28, U.S. Code, Section 1731, requests during recent decades have asked for additional scientific data to support its basic premise of individuality.  The handwriting study will gather the requested data and statistically analyze individual handwriting characteristics as they develop and how the combinations of these individual handwriting characteristics are highly unique to a person. 


Guidelines for Obtaining Known Handwriting