Wondering about case law, legalities, and research in the field of Forensic Handwriting Analysis and / or Questioned Document Examination?
The downloads below will provide that information.
- Case Law for Questioned Document Examination
- Cases Advocating Legal Precedence
- Court Precedence
- Handwriting Research Studies
- Handwriting Court Admissible
- Why Some Handwriting Experts Disagree
- Where to Collect Handwriting Exemplars
- How to Know if Your Chosen Expert Will Be Accepted in Court
- Types of Scientific Handwriting Analysis
- Effective Use of a QDE
- FBI & Handwriting Analysis
- What Happens When Handwriting Experts Disagree
A Brief History
Before 1880, handwriting analysis was not admitted as evidence into United States courts.
Around the beginning of the 20th Century, handwriting analysis reports started being permitted into evidence but only if they were already part of the case for another purpose. Standards specifically produced for comparison or "who-wrote-it" (forgeries) were not allowed.
In the "golden days" of history, if two experts diagreed, both of their testimonies were tossed out.
Then, under Federal Statute Title 28, U.S. Code, Section 1731, “the handwriting of any person shall be admissible...".
The next challenge to the admissibility of exemplars came by way of 5th and 6th Amendments which argued the standards of admissibility.
Gilbert v. California settled the 5th Amendment argument by ruling that a handwriting sample provides "credible identifying characteristics".
Lewis v. U.S. answered the 6th Amendment argument that stated an attorney can be present when collecting handwriting samples of suspects.
Finally, if voluntary handwriting samples are not given, they can be court ordered or (Grand Jury) subpoenaed. More on this can be found in several landmark cases including Schmerber v. California, Gilbert v. California, and U.S. v. Wade.
IS HANDWRITING ANALYSIS ADMISSIBLE IN COURT?
The admissibility of a handwriting expert’s testimony starts with Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. This states that an "expert witness may testify if they are proven to have specialized knowledge, sufficient facts or data, and reliable principles or methods used in forming their opinion". In addition to Rule 702, there is Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. This was a Supreme Court case that established the Daubert Standard and the Frye Test also require the court (aka Judge) finds an expert witness sufficiently qualified in order to testify and publicly states that the witness is accepted as an expert. Only then is their analysis admissible in court. Many Judges have had negative experiences with un- or under-trained so-called, self-proclaimed "experts". That's why many judges make it a blanket rule to never allow a handwriting expert into their court. Other judges have a more open mind and rule on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, handwriting admissibility is very court specific.
Some of the more common methods employed by an individual attempting to disguise are easily recognized:
Writing very large or very small Writing very fast or very slow
An exaggerated slant of the writing Writing with the off hand
Embellished or unnecessary add-ons to letters Bizarre letter forms
Heavy Pen Pressure (indentation depth) Exaggerated “Block” printing
Combinations of any of the preceding
No Longer Considered "Junk Science"...
While some believe that handwriting analysis is a “junk science," the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Forensic Information System for Handwriting (FISH) has elevated handwriting analysis from a junk science to an actual science.
In the court of law, any scientific evidence can be admitted if the court (again, court-specific) feels that the evidence will assist the jury in understanding the case and its evidence.