Reliability and Validity of Questioned Document in the Court

Reliability & Validity of Questioned Document in the Court _by Forensic Yard (5)

When a question arises on the identity of writing a document or its genuineness, the expert will need to compare it with other documents of known origin. Such documents are called standards. These standards provide the reliability and validity of the questioned documents. In this article, we will study how to make a questioned document reliable and valid in court.

The standards can be obtained in two ways

  • Request standards– These are obtained at the request of the investigator.
  • Non-Request standards– These are obtained without the knowledge of the author.

To be admissible in the court as reliable and valid evidence, the standards must be taken as a genuine ones. For that, the specimen must be taken in the presence of an expert, independent witness or by videography.

Sidewise, we will also study the factors necessary to maintain the genuineness of the standards taken by the suspect to maintain the reliability and validity of the questioned document. Let’s get started.

Requested Standard Handwriting from the Suspect

The writing sample taken from the suspect at the investigator’s request is called standard writing. Such samples have a chance to disguise. Therefore they are taken along with non-request standards to increase their reliability and Validity.

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Ways to Obtain Requested Standard Writing

The following guidelines must be taken for obtaining standard writing:-

  1. The known writing of the suspect furnished as standard should be similar as possible.
  2. The sample should be prepared with writing material similar to used for a questioned document.
  3. The writing instrument and paper should be as possible to be the same as used in the questioned document.
  4. The known writing should also contain some similar words and a combination of letters present in the questioned document. A specimen text for writing should be prepared, containing some words or sentences as present in the questioned document.

Procedure to Obtain Standard Writing

  1. The writer should be allowed to write in a comfortable position.
  2. The questioned document must not be revealed to the suspect, nor should he be instructed on how to write, spell, or from where he should begin a paragraph.
  3. The standard text must be selected carefully and should dictate the text several times.
  4. Increase the speed of dictation every time so that the suspect may write in his normal handwriting.
  5. If the questioned document contains only a few words or a signature, at least 20 specimens should be taken on a single sheet but should be obtained on separate sheets and different dates. Whereas the questioned document consisting of few paragraphs, then 5 sample paragraphs will be sufficient.
  6. Sample should consist of case number, date and FIR registration, investigation signature, etc.
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Non-Requested Standard Handwriting from the suspect

The samples of writing taken from sources other than the suspect because of his absence or denial to give samples are called non-request standards. Such samples are free from any disguise. These are also called admitted writing or natural writing. 

Ways to Obtain Non-Request Standards

If the suspect is not available or refuses to provide a specimen of his handwriting, it is necessary to obtain a sample from other sources. Non-request standards are also necessary even when standards are available because they are free from intentional disguise. There are numerous sources of such specimen like letters, notebooks, account books, license, share deeds, school, office, and institutional records. 

It is essential to locate contemporary standards of questioned documents. Materials written within 2-3 years of disputed writing or signature are usually found satisfactory for the comparison.

Factors Necessary to Maintain Reliability and Validity

  1. Circumstantial factor– The materials like pen, paper, the surface of writing, writing environment, etc., should be the same as provided while writing the questioned document.
  2. Psychological factor– Make the suspect write when he is in a normal state of mind. Alcohol or drug abused condition does not make the standard and questioned document reliable.
  3. Physiological factors– If the suspect is injured, don’t ask him to give standards as the reliability of both the documents won’t be there. 
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