Do you need a forensic document examiner expert witness?

Forensic handwriting examination, also called forensic handwriting analysis, is a discipline within forensic document examination. Handwriting examination is a comparative analysis where a questioned signature or questioned handwriting is compared against the known signature or known handwriting of a person. The purpose is to determine whether the person wrote the questioned writing.

In today’s digital environment, may documents received for examination are electronic such as PDF and JPEG or printout from a computer. Mike’s experience includes founding a computer graphics software company and teaching programming for computer graphics at college and university. He applies this knowledge and experience to his work as a forensic document examiner.

In a recent jury trial in San Diego, Mike was asked whether he knows the definition of a pixel. He proceeded to educate the jury about how digital images are constructed. The cross examining attorney objected. The judge responded, “You asked him what a pixel is.” This background in computer graphics and science is a differentiator for Mike from other forensic document examiners.

In this video, forensic document examiner, Mike Wakshull, answers two fundamental questions that are asked of document examiners as expert witnesses. He also presents a scientific, quantitative approach to assisting with answering these questions.

Where we are located

Located in Temecula, CA, Q9 Consulting, Inc. is centrally located in Southern California to offer forensic document examination, forensic handwriting analysis, and expert witness services in Riverside County, San Diego County, Orange County, San Bernardino County, and Los Angeles County. We are court qualified in each of these counties. Our cases have come from cases from 25 states and four countries. Contact us for any cases requiring authentication of documents and authentication of handwriting throughout the United States and globally. Communication with clients is made using video conferencing. This allows clients to see the results of examinations on our computer screen as the results are discussed.

Select your questioned document examiner with  ultimate care

The Court may rule the forensic document examiner is not qualified. The Court may refuse to allow the person to obtain a new document examiner. Here is an example of a case where this occurred.

Watch this video to learn how to vet your prospective document examiner.

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from Michael Wakshull — Forensic Document Examiner at

Mike applies science to forensic document examination like no other forensic document examiner

Forensic Document Examination for Legal ProfessionalsMike Wakshull, a forensic document examiner located in Temecula, CA, uses his science-based training to deliver excellent, honest results for his attorney and private clients in cases involving questioned documents. As an expert witness, his testimony is presented in layman’s language rather than technical jargon.

Forensic Document Examination for Legal Professionals was published in January, 2019. The intended audience is attorneys and other legal professionals who retain and partner with forensic document examiners. The book describes the work performed by forensic document examiners, and the work product legal professionals should expect  from forensic document examiners.

Click here to read the book.

These results include large financial settlements, and the opposing party dropping charges against the defendant. In a recent case in San Diego, CA, based on Mike’s testimony the jury awarded more than $300,000 plus punitive damages for forgery. In a case in Orange County, CA, the judge ruled the plaintiff (the opposing party) signed a letter in order to defraud the court.

In a signature examination case in Los Angeles, CA, the plaintiff dropped the case after Mike testified that the defendant did not sign the document. In each case Mike presented quantifiable results in plain, understandable language.

Contact Mike to discuss your case

Document examination is a powerful tool when performed with skill and expertise. Mike applies years of experience in quality management to forensic document examination and forensic handwriting analysis in trust, will, contract, and other types of cases.

Mike holds a graduate school certificate in forensic document examination from the Graduate School of Criminal Justice at East Tennessee State University, the only program of its kind nationwide. The program requires in-depth research in subjects such as, but not limited to, altered documents, forged signatures, threatening letters, and altered medical records, and ink analysis. Many other topics related to forensic document examination are covered comprehensively throughout the program, including legal precedents for acceptance of document examination by the courts. Mike is the only forensic document examiner in Southern California to have earned a graduate school certificate in forensic document examination.

Mike has worked as a forensic document examiner with clients from 23 states and 4 foreign countries. He is diligent and detail-oriented—essential qualities for success in the industry. In many cases, when the opposition receives his report, the case settles, saving clients both time and money. In a recent case, based on Mike’s testimony, his attorney client obtained all attorney fees, court costs and expenses as part of the judgment against the plaintiff.

Mike presents in jury-speak, not techno-geek

Understandable, clear language from your forensic document examiner expert witness leads to better results whether in or out of court. Mike’s experience as a speaker and teacher enables him to instruct the finders of fact in common language rather than technical speak. He is skilled at presenting the facts during cross-examination and in preparing his attorney clients to successfully cross-examine the opposition. He is a member of National Speakers Association.

Partner with Mike on your case

Click on the video to learn about forensic document examination.


Document examination cases from across the USA and the world

Although Q9 Consulting, Inc. is based in Riverside County, CA, Mike has worked as a forensic document examiner with clients in 27 states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia.

Mike has worked cases from Bahrain, Canada, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Mexico.

Bias is a problem in the legal system

In many instances when the opposition receives Mike’s report the case settles. Mike is diligent and detail oriented. His experience as a speaker and teacher instructs the finder of fact in common language rather than technical jargon.

The video below is an example of Mike speaking at the San Diego Law Library.

Invite Mike to speak at your event

2022 speaking engagements

Date Location Topic
01/03/2022 Divorce Transition Professionals Berkeley Little known methods of document fraud Zoom presentation
01/20/2022 Eastern Alameda County Bar Association Know Your Biases: True Stories From the Courtroom Zoom presentation
02/23/2022 Association of Certified Fraud Examiners Los Angeles Real cases of Document fraud Zoom presentation
03/17/2022 Troy Gould, PC Little known secrets of altered documents Zoom presentation
04/04/2022 University of San Diego Law School Overview of forensic document examination Zoom presentation
04/11/2022 Riverside County Bar Association Panel discussion on retaining a forensic expert Riverside, CA
04/13/2022 Divorce Transition Professionals Walnut Creek Little known methods of document fraud Zoom presentation
05/10/2022 North County Bar Association Little known secrets of altered documents Zoom presentation
06/28/2022 Divorce Transition Professionals Camarillo Little known methods of document fraud Zoom presentation
07/06/2022 Continuing Education at the Bar – CEB Identifying and Addressing Fraudulent Real Estate Documents Zoom presentation
10/06/2022 Attorney Credits Implicit bias in the courtroom: Will it cost you your next case Zoom presentation
10/03/2022 Probate law class – University of San Diego Document fraud in probate and elder abuse cases Zoom presentation
10/06/2022 Attorney Credits Implicit bias in the courtroom: Will it cost you your next case Zoom presentation
10/13/2022 Divorce Transition Professionals Document fraud in family law cases Zoom presentation
10/16/2022 California Academy of Attorneys for Healthcare Professionals Does your subconscious defeat your case? Lessons of implicit bias San Diego
10/17/2022 Calesq for Thompson Reuters Know Your Biases, True Stories from the Courtroom Zoom presentation
12/13/2022 Calesq for Thompson Reuters Little known secrets of altered documents Zoom presentation

We Subscribe to a Code of Ethics for Forensic Science

As a member of Scientific Association of Forensic Examiners (SAFE) and National Association of Document Examiners (NADE), Mike subscribes to their strict code of ethics. Q9 Consulting supports the new code of ethics proposed by the National Commission on Forensic Science.

In September, 2016, the National Commission on Forensic Science released a National Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility for Forensic Science and Forensic Medicine Service Providers. The purpose is to assure all forensic practitioners are held to high ethical standards that will be enforced. The requirements of the code are.

  1. Accurately represent his/her education, training, experience, and areas of expertise.
  2. Pursue professional competency through training, proficiency testing, certification, and presentation and publication of research findings.
  3. Commit to continuous learning in the forensic disciplines and stay abreast of new findings, equipment and techniques.
  4. Promote validation and incorporation of new technologies, guarding against the use of non-valid methods in casework and the misapplication of validated methods.
  5. Avoid tampering, adulteration, loss, or unnecessary consumption of evidentiary materials.
  6. Avoid participation in any case where there are personal, financial, employment-related or other conflicts of interest.
  7. Conduct full, fair and unbiased examinations, leading to independent, impartial, and objective opinions and conclusions.
  8. Make and retain full, contemporaneous, clear and accurate written records of all examinations and tests conducted and conclusions drawn, in sufficient detail to allow meaningful review and assessment by an independent person competent in the field.
  9. Base conclusions on generally-accepted procedures supported by sufficient data, standards and controls, not on political pressure or other outside influence.
  10. Do not render conclusions that are outside one’s expertise.
  11. Prepare reports in unambiguous terms, clearly distinguishing data from interpretations and opinions, and disclosing all known associated limitations that prevent invalid inferences or mislead the judge or jury.
  12. Do not alter reports or other records, or withhold information from reports for strategic or tactical litigation advantage.
  13. Present accurate and complete data in reports, oral and written presentations and testimony based on good scientific practices and validated methods.
  14. Communicate honestly and fully, once a report is issued, with all parties (investigators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and other expert witnesses), unless prohibited by law.
  15. Document and notify management or quality assurance personnel of adverse events, such as an unintended mistake or a breach of ethical, legal, scientific standards, or questionable conduct.
  16. Ensure reporting, through proper management channels, to all impacted scientific and legal parties of any adverse event that affects a previously issued report or testimony.

Use an overlay to compare handwriting

Forensic handwriting comparison eliminates guesswork by comparing the red questioned writing with the black known writing

Mike Wakshull applies computer technology to examination of handwriting and documents. Adobe Photoshop CC offers tools that make comparison faster and more accurate than manual methods of comparison.

Photoshop allows the document examiner to place the questioned signature adjacent to the known signatures. In this example of signature examination from Orange County, CA, the height of the first initial in each signature was made similar. The questioned signature is black, the known signature was changed to red. This is one of many known signatures that were used for comparison. The judge ruled this was a forgery perpetrated by the plaintiff.

The Court ruled the black signature is a forgery.

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Photoshop was used to discover a forged signature

Document examiners are sometimes asked to determine whether a document is a photocopy of a legitimate document. When the photocopy is done well, it is often difficult, or impossible to determine the authenticity of the source document. When a person is careless creating a document that will be passed as authentic, the document examiner can determine the photocopy is not made from an authentic document.

In this example from Riverside, CA, a person created a contract, then placed two signatures onto the document. I could not determine whether they were placed onto the page using computer software such as Photoshop, or they were placed onto the page from a manual cutout.The Court ruled the questioned document is not authentic and is an altered document.

A telltale sign on the page is the signature line sloped down to the right for each signature. All the computer printed text on the page was perfectly horizontal.

The Court ruled the black signature is a forgery.

Compare slope of signature lines cropped

Photoshop was used to discover a forged signature

Mike Wakshull makes it clear from the start that he is honest. " Don't tell me what you are trying to argue about the evidence". That's why we hired him. He independently assesses the evidence and doesn't tell you "what you want to hear" - but instead what the evidence proves. In the end, confronted with his report and methodology, our opponent had no choice but to settle.

-Attorney, Pittsburgh, PA

What a questioned document examiner does

Forensic document examiners are trained to analyze documents of all types. We provide specific, quantifiable opinions. The documents may be handwritten, computer-generated or printed. They may exist in electronic format or even be graffiti on a wall. Examiners work with these and many other forms of documents.

Look for original documents

Often, original documents are not available. When they are, it is the responsibility of the document examiner to examine the original document.

Laboratory equipment is important

A forensic document examiner’s laboratory must be portable, enabling him or her to take the equipment to the location of the document when it cannot be physically delivered to the document examiner. For example, the document may be lodged at the court or other government agency, in a human resource department, or be in the possession of the opposing party in a lawsuit.

In a recent case, the opposing document examiner admitted he did not own the proper equipment to perform the work on the case.

Much of the work of a forensic document examiner involves handwriting. It is helpful for those unfamiliar with the science to know that the most qualified, trained document examiner uses a powerful microscope to analyze minute details in both the known and questioned writing, in the ink and even in the paper. They use software to assist with comparisons between different writing samples. Document examination involves far more than the observation of overt similarities and differences in the visual structure of the writing.

Perform an in-depth analysis of the documents

This in-depth analysis is essential to provide the quantitative, objective evidence required to defend an opinion in court. An understanding of statistical variability is also indispensable to account for the inherent variability of any handwriting. No two signatures written by the same person are exactly alike. The document examiner determines the variability among the same person’s handwriting. The questioned handwriting is compared with the known handwriting. The document examiner then determines whether the common attributes in the known writing are found in the questioned handwriting.

Ask your prospective document examiner about their methodology

You should ask a prospective document examiner how they conduct their examinations, what equipment and software they use, and how they approach the question of variability in handwriting samples. Many examiners do not use the latest equipment or methodologies. See Mike’s book, “Line by Line: Forensic Document Examination, A Strategy for Legal Professionals,” for an understanding of how to select a qualified forensic document examiner.

Digital documents

In today’s digital age questioned document examiners often receive documents that are created digitally rather than with pen and paper. These include documents with signatures created on digital tablets such as those at a store’s cash register, email, PDF documents, digital photographs, and documents created in a word processor such as Microsoft Word®.

Ask your document examiner how they will approach examination of a digital document. Mike has 30-years experience developing and managing computer software systems.

Contact Mike to learn how he can assist with examination of your digital document.

Common features in the questioned signature and known signatures

Mike is extremely knowledgeable in his field. In my 25+ years of law enforcement experience it is rare to come by an instructor who delivers even the most complex information at such an understandable level. His instructions, like his books, are broken down in such a way that even the most un-tech savvy person can come away from his training feeling like an expert. On a side note he was used as an expert by my department and the results were priceless.

-P.M. Riverside County

Exhibits May Help Settle Your Case

Questioned document examination is a mystery to many people. The old adage, “A picture tells 1000 words” is true.

The questioned document examiner uses demonstrative exhibits created from the documents that were examined. These exhibits help tell the story that supports the opinion given in the case. The exhibits show similarities and differences between the known writing and questioned writing. The exhibits may show intricacies of handwriting, details proving a document was altered or a signature is a forged signature. The exhibits may demonstrate how the document was created, and many other attributes to support the opinion given about the questioned document.

Altered deed

Example of a forged deed of trust
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