What do I need to submit for an examination?

Whenever possible the original documents, questioned and known, should be submitted.

Known samples must be comparable to the questioned material. Document examination is a comparative process and any known standards have to be the same type of writing as the questioned. If the questioned material is hand printed (disconnected letters), the known should also be hand printed. If the questioned is handwritten (connected, cursive), the known material should likewise be handwritten.  In short, the known material should contain the same characters and character combinations as the questioned.

The source of the known writing must be provable and it must be admissible in a court of law.

What if I have a question?

Call the laboratory and talk to a Questioned Document Examiner. Currently, all areas of the state are serviced by Document Examiners from the Western Laboratory (540) 561-6600.

Do you examine photocopies?

In a word, “YES”. Original handwritten documents are always the best evidence but in some cases the original has been lost or destroyed and the only evidence is a photocopy.

The lab can also examine photocopied documents in an effort to identify the source machine used to produce them.

Why did I not get the results that I expected?

The quality or quantity of the questioned material may be such that no conclusion could be rendered.

There may be so little comparability between the known and the questioned that an examination could not be performed.

Outside influences (drugs, illness, disguise, etc. ) may have affected the handwriting to the degree that no examination could  be performed.

The Certificate of Analysis will normally include explanations of any significant limiting factors encountered during the examination.

Why was my document examined when I did not request an examination?

Many laboratory examinations can degrade or destroy document evidence. For example, the chemical processing for latent prints may cause the ink to run or to disappear completely. It also destroys any indented writings and may negatively affect other potential examinations. Incoming cases are screened for their potential for future Questioned Document examinations and those cases are routed to the Questioned Document Section. At a minimum the questioned documents are photographed and, if appropriate, some examinations may be conducted. Any tests or examinations that are conducted are non-destructive and will have absolutely no adverse effects on any subsequent examination for latent prints.