Is the signature a forged signature?
A document examiner should never opine, “that is a forged signature” or “that is forged writing.” Forgery implies intent to deceive. Intent to deceive is for the trier of fact to decide. The questioned document examiner will only opine as to the authenticity of writing or authenticity of a document.
Since forgery is a legal term, unless the document examiner is a licensed attorney, the questioned document examiner is not able to opine as to the intent of the person who wrote the signature of another person. The document examiner can be qualified by the court as an expert witness to state, “the person whose signature is allegedly on the questioned document did not write the signature.” When asked on cross-examination whether this is a forged signature, the proper response by the document examiner is, “I do not know.”
Your document examiner may see the handwriting differently than the client
Many times a prospective client sees two signatures allegedly written by the same person are different from each other. The untrained person tends to look at the overall structure of the writing. The trained forensic document examiner looks at the intricate details of the writing to learn how a person really writes a signature or regular writing. The details such as connection between words and letters, writing pressure, proportions of large and small letters and many other attributes are examined by the skilled forensic document examiner.
Differences between writing of a signatures or other words is expected since each signature is written in a slightly different position, different speed and different hold of the writing instrument. The document examiner’s opinion as to the authenticity of the allegedly “forged signature” is based on the degree to which the questioned signature differs from the known signature.
Your document examiner will request many exemplars, examples of the person’s signature, to use for the signature analysis. The exemplars determine the overall way the person executes a signature. Examples of the features found in the questioned signature may appear in the additional exemplars.
How many exemplars are needed?
A question arises as to how many exemplars are needed to compare a questioned writing to the known writing of a person. The answer to this question is, “handwriting comparison requires a sufficient sample size for the document examiner to learn the overall characteristics of the subject’s writing.”