Examples of the person’s known writing

Why we need sources for exemplars

Exemplars are examples of a person’s writing. A requirement for a forensic document examiner to perform a handwriting examination is obtaining a sufficient number of examples of a person’s handwriting to use for comparison with the questioned writing. A common concern from clients is they have only a few examples of the person’s writing. This may be especially problematic when the subject is deceased. The problem occurs when a person wants to contest a will in a probate case. The forensic document examiner needs to learn the different ways a person writes. This is true for signatures and general writing.

A question is asked, “How many exemplars do you need?” The answer is, “A sufficient number to learn the ways a person wrote or signed their name.” I usually request at client find least 15 exemplars. The exemplars should be as close in time to the date of the questioned signature becasue people’s writing can change over time. Respected authorities have written more exemplars are needed to eliminate a writer than to identify a writer. This is generally true. In a forensic handwriting analysis case in San Diego, after 30 exemplars of the decedent’s signature the evidence pointed toward elimination of a person as the writer of a questioned document. The 31st exemplar changed the opinion toward identifying the writer. This is because the missing evidence was supplied in the 31st exemplar which was written differently than the other 30.

There are many sources of exemplars


There are many sources of documents which are useful for comparison with the questioned document. Authorities have compiled lists that contain more than 100 possible sources of examples of a person’s handwriting. As people need to sign new items, the list will grow. Q9 Consulting provides a list to its clients.

Some items on the list are:

  • Bank checks
  • Bank deposit slips
  • Bill of sale
  • Car rental agreements
  • Contracts
  • Deeds
  • Employment applications
  • Records of attendance at events
  • Tax returns

As with the questioned document, provide the original example documents to the handwriting examiner or document examiner. When the original document is not available, provide the best quality copy for the document examination.

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