The Questioned Document Section of the Iowa DCI Criminalistics Laboratory provides a comprehensive range of document examinations and hand writing identification services to authorized agencies in the State of Iowa.
This area of forensic science is a broad field where both handwritten and machine produced documents are characterized and compared to determine facts about their origins. A document is a substrate with marks or symbols which convey thoughts. A document in a criminal matter is the only physical evidence that portrays thoughts.
The forensic document examiner makes scientific examinations, comparisons, and analyses of documents in order to: 1) establish genuineness or non-genuineness, 2) reveal alterations, additions, or deletions, 3) identify or eliminate persons as the source of handwriting, 4) identify or eliminate the source of machine produced documents, 5) visualize other impressions, marks, or relevant evidence of any kind, and 6) write reports and give testimony. Other problems may involve the decipherment, restoration, or enhancement of obscured, deleted, or damaged parts of documents.
Forensic document examination includes the expertise of handwriting identification. Handwriting includes cursive or script style writing, hand printing, signatures, numerals, and other written marks or signs. Forensic document examination does not involve the employment of calligraphic or engrossing skills, nor does it involve a study of personality or character.
Equipment used in forensic document examination includes: microscopes and additional optical aids; photographic and computer imaging devices, a wide variety of imaging materials adaptable for use with a variety of lighting methods, including those involving radiant energy in the ultraviolet, visible, infrared, and other regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. There are also electrostatic devices for the visualization of indentations and other features present on paper. Other analytical instrumentation may be used where appropriate.
ANONYMOUS NOTES AND LETTERS
Anonymous notes and letters can make for frustrating cases for investigators. The writer will often attempt to disguise his/her handwriting and perhaps take special care not to leave latent prints. In many cases, there is no logical suspect. However, anonymous notes are seldom random. The collection of normal daily writings from persons with some association to the case is advised.
DOCUMENT EXAMINATION & LATENT PRINTS
Many officers feel that because a questioned document has been handled by several individuals, the processing for the suspect's latent prints will prove futile. However, because of circumstances surrounding the handling of a typical questioned document, if the document can be protected when it is picked up by the investigating officer, the latent print examination will not necessarily be affected by the previous handling. Remember, only one identifiable print which proves useful in the investigation is important evidence.
HANDLING DOCUMENT EVIDENCE
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