The need to answer questions about documents has existed since the earliest days of civilisation! Documents include not only those of the familiar paper form but may include other items and materials that can bear information. This includes the information that may be in written and/or printed form as well as the physical manner of preparation.
Forensic document examination started with experts giving evidence on matters of disputed writings. This may be the reason why this specialisation is often thought of as “handwriting expertise” but it is more than that, as other questions are addressed by document examiners. The range of questions that may be posed to document examiners are varied and may include but are not limited to:
- Who wrote the handwritten entries on the document?
- Who wrote the signatures on the document?
- Which office machine produced the document?
- What printing processes were used to create the document?
- Has the document been altered?
- Was the document produced on its purported date?
- Is there physical evidence that can address the production of the document and its subsequent handling?
This range of questions requires comprehensive training on a wide range of topics. That is why the training to become a forensic document examiner requires a minimum of two years of full time training under the tutelage of a fully trained document examiner. There is no university program that enables one to commence work immediately as a document examiner.
Document examination is not the practice of forensic accounting which attempts to determine the movement of money or the accounting procedures within a regulatory or legal framework. Nor is it the practice of graphology which claims to be able to determine personality traits from handwriting.
For a more detailed explanation, check out the blog – Document Forensics.