Federal Forensic Associates, Inc.

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Can you determine the date of preparation of a document containing either handwritten notations or signatures?

Yes, with certain limitations. We can determine the first date of commercial availability of the ink used to prepare any handwritten or handprinted material. The type of ink does not preclude this examination. If the initial date of commercial availability is more recent than the supposed date of the examined writing, then the document is not what it purports. We can not, however, through this technique, determine the specific or even approximate date of preparation. Other techniques can determine the approximate date of preparation of handwritten entries by comparison with known dated writings. The more extensive the known dated writings the more specific the determination of preparation date. The source of known dated writings may be from among the examined documents, other documents which are not questioned as to their preparation date, or samples maintained in our laboratory. We can not, however, be more specific than 4 to 6 months. In other words, if an entry is dated January 12, 1999 and the supposition is that the entry was actually prepared in March of 1999, then this methodology will not be helpful. Additional methodologies are being evaluated which may provide answers to this problem.


Can the date of preparation be determined for other types of documents such as typewritten, carbon, computer printed or xerographically reproduced?

Not to the same degree as handwritten documents or signatures. It is not possible to determine commercial availability of these materials with the same degree of certainty as was possible with writing ink. It is, however, often possible to ascertain enough information to provide a list of possible sources and thus a range of commercial availability dates. The ability to further examine these materials, as was described previously, does not exist to the same degree. It is possible to examine xerographically produced materials and determine the extent to which they have been exposed to environmental conditions. This can provide an estimate of age. Additional examination methodologies are being evaluated that concern the other referenced materials.


Can an addition to a document, either typed, printed, written, or by substituting a page, be detected?

Yes. Physical and chemical examinations can indicate the use of multiple typewriters, printers, papers or writing instruments in the preparation of a document. When additions are prepared using the same materials that were used in the initial preparation of the document then the question actually becomes When were the additions made? We then must refer to the previously mentioned techniques.


Are any of the referenced techniques destructive?

Many of the physical examinations are totally non-destructive and do not effect the documents in any way. Nor do these procedures effect the ability of other examiners to perform similar testing. The chemical testing that is referenced does require removal of samples from the document. Normally these samples are removed with a hypodermic needle sized hole punch and do not effect the legibility of the material. The hole punch is approximately the size of a typewriter period and a full range of tests require about 30. In a normal sized signature there is over 4 inches of written line and 30 "microplugs" is approximately 5/8 inch. Because the samples are normally taken from the entire area of writing the legibility of the writing and the ability to perform additional tests is maintained. In those instances where minimal writing or material exists the extent to which an examination can be performed will be evaluated individually.


Will the results of these examinations be admissible in court?

The ultimate decision of admissibility is at the discretion of the court. The techniques described, however, have been thoroughly researched and peer reviewed in the literature and through presentation to the forensic community. The best measure of admissibility is in the competence of the expert, and we at Federal Forensic Associates, Inc. take pride in providing the best in integrity and technical expertise.

    Contact Federal Forensic Associates FFA@InkDating.com   

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