Obtaining Handwriting Specimens
handwriting and signature comparisons require access to a
suitable and adequate quantity of specimen material. Some suspect
writers will readily provide specimen handwriting on request. In other instances, documents
which the suspect wrote during business or social
circumstances may be the only materials available. The
following guidelines should ensure the document examiner
is provided with the standards needed to reach a
Documents bearing specimen
handwriting fall into one of two categories. In the first
category are "requested" specimens that consist of handwriting, signatures or
printing produced solely
for the purpose of conducting a handwriting comparison.
"Requested" specimens are often prepared at the request of the
person seeking the services of a handwriting expert. The second
category consists of "collected" specimens. These include documents
which were written or signed by a person during his or her normal day-to-day
mentioned above, "requested" specimens are
written by the victim or suspect at the request of and in
the presence of a witness. These specimens have several
- If prepared properly,
they will contain letters and letter combinations
similar to those that appear in the questioned
- They can contain
repetitions of the questioned text and thus better represent a
person's range of writing habits.
- They are easy to
prove because they have been prepared before a
- Writing materials
(i.e. pen, pencil, paper, cardboard, etc.)
similar to those used in the preparation of the
questioned document can be utilized.
- The format or
arrangement of the questioned writing can be
- They can be prepared
under similar writing conditions to those which
prevailed when the questioned document was
specimens also have certain disadvantages. The
writer is usually aware of their purpose and, rather than being naturally written,
"requested" specimens may display
features associated with nervousness. On occasion, the writer may
attempt to alter or disguise his/her natural writing habits. The
extent to which disguised writing influences the results of a
handwriting comparison varies from case to case. In certain
situations, "requested" exemplars can be so disguised they are
of little use in a handwriting comparison.
specimens have their own set of advantages and disadvantages.
These specimens can be obtained by an investigator or they can be volunteered by
people who have access to
documents written by an individual. In other instances,
the suspect or victim himself can provide handwriting that he/she prepared at an earlier time. These specimens
have the following advantages:
- Since they are
usually naturally written, influences attributed
to disguise or nervousness are usually not a
- They can selected so as to be
contemporaneous with the date of the questioned
specimens also have a number of disadvantages:
- It can be difficult
to prove who wrote them.
- The conditions that prevailed at the time of writing are often
- They may not have been produced by the
same writing materials as those used to prepare the questioned
- It is difficult to
locate samples which contain repetitions of the
Sources of Collected
We write or sign an
astounding number of documents during the course of our
lifetime. The following is a list of documents
where specimen handwriting or signatures can
often be found.
marginal notes, etc.
& Fishing Licenses
& Delivery Signatures
Certificate & License
& Phone Books
Permits, Applications & Licenses
& Foreign Licenses
Addresses on Envelopes
& Personal Account Books
& Provincial Tax Returns
& Employment Records
& Withdrawal Slips
Deposit Access Records
& Lease Forms
& Boat Registrations
& Land Titles
|No two naturally written words or signatures produced by the
same person are identical in every detail. This
is due to the body's inability to carryout actions with machine-like precision. No act of writing, when executed
in a free and natural manner, is void of that
element of writing known as variation. Largely a
reflexive action, a person's handwriting is
subject to changes which depend upon his/her mood,
physical condition, muscular co-ordination and external influences such as writing
conditions, drugs, alcohol, nervousness or the
nature of the document bearing the writing.
In spite of natural variation, the
developed handwriting of every person contains
habitual features that are as peculiar as any of
his/her habits or mannerisms. The quantity of
specimens needed to represent a person's writing or signature habits depends on both the extent of the
contested writing and the degree to which the
handwriting varies. If the questioned writing
consists of a single signature, then perhaps 10-15 specimen
signatures are all that is needed. However, if the questioned material
consists of several pages of handwriting,
printing and signatures significantly more
samples will be required to establish a suspect's writing
The handwriting and signatures of some writers can be remarkably
consistent. Samples written on one occasion will
appear similar to those produced weeks, months or
even years later. In these cases, the writer's
range of variation is described as limited and conclusive
opinions can often be be supported by only a few
exemplars. In other cases, a person's writing
will vary considerably. Often writing conditions, the writer's physical/mental
condition and the nature of
the document itself can all contribute to the varied appearance
of his/her writing. In
such cases, many more specimens are need to isolate individual writing features
and determine their significance.
|It is useful to keep the
following points in mind when collecting
specimen handwriting or signatures for
both "collected" and
"requested" writing samples whenever
- Submit original
documents for examination and not
- Obtain "collected" writing samples written
both before and after the period
when the questioned document was
allegedly signed or written.
writing samples should be similar
in content to the questioned
samples should contain
repetitions of the same letters
and letter combination appearing
in the questioned text.
- Include 10-15 consecutively
numbered personal checks that surround the
date when the questioned document was written.
person should be asked to assume
the same writing position (i.e.
seated, standing, etc.) which was
used when the questioned document
was produced (if this is known).
handwriting samples should be
dictated and the speed of
dictation should be varied.
should be written on separate
pieces of paper that are similar
in size and format to the
document should be removed from
the victim's or suspect's sight
after it is completed.
document bearing specimen writing should be labeled (e.g. K-1,
K-2....etc.) in an inconspicuous area (preferably in the bottom
margin) so as not
to interfere with the writing. Specimens
attributed to the same writer should be grouped
together and placed in the same envelope.
The success of every handwriting comparison
depends to a large extent on the quality and
quantity of specimens submitted. Occasionally, it
may not be possible to obtain "requested" samples.
In those instances, efforts should be directed at
locating as many "collected" samples as possible.
Results of handwriting comparisons tend to be
more conclusive and meaningful when both "requested" and
"collected" exemplars are available.