What does a forensic document examiner do?

A forensic document examiner (also called questioned document examiner) determines the authenticity of a questioned document. A forensic document examiner can state that questioned documents were either written by or not written by the person who wrote the known writing.

Forensic document examiners are trained to identify alterations to documents. This includes changing text, finding erasures, determining whether a page in a set of documents was substituted and discovering that an electronic document such as a PDF file has been changed.

A forensic document examiner will not determine that questioned documents are a forgery. Forgery implies another person wrote or signed a document using another person’s name or writing with the intent to harm the other person. A document examiner does not determine state of mind nor intent of a writer.

Types of documents that may require analysis and examination

  • Contracts
  • Wills (Printed and holographic)
  • Deeds
  • Affidavits
  • Employment agreements
  • Checks
  • Insurance claims
  • Social Security cards
  • Anonymous letters
  • Crime scene writing
  • Notarized writing
  • Photographs
  • Threatening letters
  • Graffiti
  • Altered documents
  • Handwritten notes
  • Computer generated pages
  • Medical records
  • Loan documents
  • Robo signed documents
  • Digital documents created on a computer

What is a document?

A document is any material that contains marks, symbols or signs. A document may be on paper, a wall, a sidewalk, on a bottle or any other surface on which the marks were made. It may be created by hand or electronically with a printer, fax machine or other mechanical device. A document may also be created with a computer. This web page is a document.

Below is a list of possible forms for documents. This is a partial list.

  • Paper that contains handwriting
  • A page that is printed on a computer printer
  • A wall with writing at a crime scene
  • A signed photograph or work of art
  • Cartoons and doodles
  • Spray paint on a sidewalk or other surface
  • A typewritten page