The Expert Opinion – Part One

Handwriting Signature Analysis

Without a doubt, the most misunderstood and sometimes daunting task of being a handwriting expert is explaining my opinion.

Is Any Opinion Definitive?

By its very definition, an opinion is subjective and not an absolute answer. It is only one person’s application of knowledge and experience combined with analytical skills to derive what is perceived as the correct answer.

If this is true, can there be varying levels of certainty when it comes to an expert opinion? The answer is a resounding, yes. As a handwriting expert/document examiner I have found that few cases are as simple as they initially appear, so arriving at the ultimate expert opinion can sometimes be challenging.

The Devil is in the Details

For instance, in a signature identification case, I search for similar details in the comparative signatures provided. If they are not present, I always ask for more sample writing. If I still am unable to find the missing details, I cannot be as convinced that the samples and the questioned signature were written by the same person, even though there are no fundamental differences between the writings. In a situation like this I must lower my level of certainty according to the weight of the missing features and the strength of the similarities.

Skill and Training is a Must

The only way to establish the relative importance of the characteristics examined by forensic document examiners is to accumulate and apply a personal databank of knowledge combined with the experience of viewing literally thousands of handwriting samples to the analysis of the questioned document. Once properly trained, the expert should have developed the skill to recognize the significance of the combination of characteristics present in the document.

But, as we all know, each of us has differing experience based particularly on our perceptions and critical thinking abilities. It is important that the document examiner you choose is accomplished in those areas and has training that conforms to the standards of the industry established by the American Society of Testing and Materials, International (ASTM). I will write more on this organization in a subsequent post.

So, just how do document examiners express their expert opinions if they have reservations about the correct answer? My next post will hopefully shed some light on the topic.

For more information or help with your handwriting signature analysis or document examination you can contact me at ALLIANCE FORENSIC SERVICES in Escondido, CA. 888-760-0339