When crime scene investigators (CSIs) come across a document that is part of a crime, a forensic handwriting analyst must determine whether the handwriting is consistent with the person suspected of having written it. writing or if the writing is a forgery.
To make this determination, the handwriting examiner will need several standard handwriting samples, or standards as it is called, in order to get an insight into the person’s writing style and to check whether or not that person wrote the questionable note. To make matters worse, standard writing samples may have been created with a different writing instrument and under different events surrounding the document. Therefore, making comparisons of a disputed document with a known writing sample in another document may be an impossibility.
If it cannot be used unsolicited standard writing samples, existing writing samples known to be authentic, the forensic handwriting analyst then asks the suspected author to provide a writing sample while using a pen or pencil and paper similar to the document in question because the forensic investigator can establish what it is. known as requested standard handwriting sample.
Unsolicited standards are advantageous for several reasons. The most important reason is that unsolicited samples reveal the writer’s true writing style and reveal words and phrases that the writer uses regularly. This can be used as strong evidence against the writer. For example, old documents and letters may contain keyword phrases that are consistent with those used in a suicide note. The main disadvantage of unsolicited standard handwriting samples is that they must also be authenticated. If they cannot be directly linked to the perpetrator, they are of little value to the criminal investigator.
It is a fact that handwriting styles change throughout our lives. Therefore, examiners try to obtain writing samples from documents written by a suspected writer that are consistent with the time when a questioned document was apparently written. Suppose an examiner is asked to determine whether a 15-year-old handwritten document, such as a will, is authentic and was actually written by the apparent writer. The forensic handwriting analyst will need to examine other documents written by the apparent writer from 15 years ago because those documents will be consistent with his writing style from that time period in which the will was prepared.
The biggest advantage of requested handwriting samples is that they are already authentic. The forensic handwriting examiner visually inspects that the person writes their name. The investigator may also ask the person to write a specific sentence similar to that found in a questioned document so that the examiner can make verbatim comparisons between the two sentences. Sometimes the questioned document contains information that the examiner does not want to reveal to the suspect. In this case, the examiner asks the suspect to write a sentence containing key word phrases that were used in the questioned document.
Requested handwriting samples also have their drawbacks. Some people get nervous and therefore focus too much on providing a writing sample. This can produce uncharacteristic abnormalities in the way they normally write and sign their names. For this reason, there are minimal changes that make it difficult to make an accurate comparison.
The suspected author may also attempt to disguise their writing style so that their handwriting sample does not match the writing of a forged check, will, or some other questionable document. It is unfortunate for the handwriting examiner that the suspect is successful in changing his writing style so that a consistent match is difficult to achieve.
One way to avoid this problem is for the suspect to write a large amount of content on multiple pages. While changing your style is easy when you’re writing short sentences, the more you write across multiple pages, the more your conscious changes give way to your normal writing. Verbally repeating the same content to the suspected writer multiple times is another trick that writing analysts use to stifle anyone’s attempts to disguise their normal writing style. With each attempt, the suspect is more likely to use different styles. An amateur examiner then discovers the hidden elements of his writing style and the devices the author used to hide them within the requested writing before making the comparison.
Criminal investigators are not concerned about a suspect’s reluctance to provide a handwriting sample. One might think that providing a handwriting sample would violate the Fifth Amendment, which states that a person has a right not to incriminate himself. According to the US Supreme Court in a case, Gilbert v. State of California, handwriting is part of the physical identifying characteristics that are not protected by the Fifth Amendment. Therefore, the court can order a suspect to provide a writing standard even if he is reluctant.