Identifying The Criminal Using Handwriting Forensic Investigation
The stages to discover a criminal consist on determining and recording the constituting facts and circumstances of the crime; identifying the criminal and his accomplices if any; obtain, preserving and checking the evidences; providing proofs. Handwriting Forensic Investigation is a critical part in the entire process. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) develops and maintains databases which contain reference files for handwriting analysts to compare with some questionable documents. The investigators determine the patterns in writing proofs in order to check whether two or more different documents were written with the same pattern, and then identify the alleged perpetrator. When these documents are compared, the professional needs to accurately distinguish between the style characteristics and the individual characteristics because the latter are the key to characterize the author. Style characteristics are influenced by the culture, the education, and the social issues, so they are not exactly unique, because we tend to learn them when we are children. On the other hand, individual characteristics are defined by us, namely, by our personality: the way of the spelling (common mistakes that we make), the particular spacing, the form of the letters and their inclination, and the slope of the lines. When this study starts, the experts compare the suspicious’ handwriting and the known one from the data base, searching for grammar, punctuation and diction patterns. The analysts pay attention in frequent misspellings, repeated sentences, typical expressions, and other characteristics that could identify the ethnic origin of the author and his or her level of education. The next step is to analyze the general form: size, inclination, proportion and initial and final style of scripts, these are an integral part of the author’s general form. Next, the format and margins: the size of the margins, the consistency in the spaces between words, the inclination of the lines which determine the handwriting style. Lines features follows: writing speed, fluidity, and the pressure of the pen are clues about the characteristics of the line, and the space between the letters and the words and their connectivity.
For instance, in kidnapping cases, some authors let a written note in the victim’s home, establishing the ransom price, and they send letters to the victim’s family which are proofs, since they contain signatures, symbols, misspellings or grammatical errors that follow determinant pattern to identify the guilty. Even the phraseology can establish his or her nationally. Furthermore, Handwriting Forensic Investigation can also define the personality of a suspect. There are several patterns used for defining antisocial people, like aggressive or violent people. In general terms, the features in the writing of an antisocial person are: occupying the graphic space, almost entirely; thick lines in letters; confused writing, in messy way, with blots and erasures; inclination of certain letters as the “t” and the “l”; script plagued by emotional changes, letters within words increase and decrease its size; omission of some letters; and pressure in certain phrases, words or letters. All these characteristics express violence, ambiguous personality (strong and weak person, at the same time), even masochism and self-punishment. However, do these patterns and rules drive to a solution for investigators? Unfortunately, there are additional issues that experts need to cover. Determining the convoluted personality of a criminal is not the only difficulty that can be found. In addition, it is common to find forgery attempts.
Professionals in this field need years of exposure in order to develop expertise. In the case of a deliberately modified document, an expert can notice that, although the form may change, the type of words used and the sources that have influenced phrasing remain the same. Moreover, when handwriting is intentionally modified, the paper’s surface generally shows the erasure or sandpapering. If the color was made different, analysts can determine it by using infrared lighting techniques, which are also useful to bring out contents of the document that were damaged by fire. At present, there are automated techniques for aiding to make the analysis, such as FISH (Forensic Information System for Handwriting), but in the most of the cases, the interpretation from an experienced analyst is fundamental.