Forensic handwriting started early this century in order to identify the authenticity of documents and forgery. It developed out of The Court’s need to be able to correctly analyze document evidence. In addition to identifying signatures and forgery, document examination performed by forensic handwriting experts includes detection of deletions, alterations, additions, substitutions, handwriting identification, and identification of photocopies, check writers and typewriters. Additionally, as of yet, the science of handwriting analysis has no substantial way of determining if an author is left or right handed or whether they are female or male based solely on the writing sample.
Within the scope of handwriting identification, the principle is that no two people’s handwriting is alike just as no two people are alike. The idea is that there are certain variations within individual handwriting that can only be distinguished by careful examination to be able to determine authenticity. A forensic handwriting expert also must take into account that handwriting involves both individual and class characteristics. Class characteristics are traits that are common to a particular professional group, language system, family group or writing system. Whereas, on the other hand, individual characteristics have to do with the unique way a person writes that would not be seen in another person’s writing. It is basically a person’s unique thumb print in written word.
Some of the most common areas of forgery encountered by handwriting experts are imitations of genuine signatures through tracing, freehand attempts to copy a signature, a copy of a genuine signature is inserted onto a document, purposeful signing of another person without trying to copy their signature, authentic signatures that have been made, but the author has no memory of signing and situations where both the signer and document are fictitious. While examiners are typically able to identify the authenticity of a signature, it is often much more difficult to find the forger. This is because the forger is not writing with his or her own individual style and is basically writing in disguise. If a forger is writing a lengthier document, the probability that of revealing one’s unique writing style is more likely.
A qualified handwriting expert typically goes through a two year training period studying questioned documents. They become familiar with the legal system, finish projects related to their field of study and learn more about the overall role of forensic sciences. It is important to note that the field of forensic handwriting is different from graphology. Graphologists believe they have the ability to ascertain certain traits of a person’s personality from their handwriting.