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Can a forensic document examiner opine to forgery?
Michael Wakshull -- Forensic Document Examiner Michael Wakshull -- Forensic Document Examiner
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Temecula , CA
Monday, January 23, 2017


What is forgery?

Forensic document examiners do not opine whether a handwritten document has been forged. Forensic document examiners opine whether a document contains handwriting not written by the person who purportedly wrote the document. Handwriting not written by the person who purportedly wrote it is called simulated writing.

Black’s law dictionary, Tenth Edition, defines forgery as: “1. The act of fraudulently making false document or altering a real one to be used as if genuine, 2. A false or altered document made to look genuine by someone with the intent to deceive.”

Can a forensic document examiner opine to forgery?

Document examiners can determine whether a document has been altered or is made to look genuine by another person. They cannot determine the intent of the person who made the alteration or made the false writing.

I have seen situations where a document examiner will stay in the report that a signature is a forgery. Such statements are troublesome in that an attorney can ask on cross examination how the document examiner determined the intent of the writer. As an example, I could authorize my wife or another person to sign my name on a document. There would be no intent to deceive another on the authenticity of the signature. Famous people such as celebrities are known for authorizing assistance to sign photographs and other memorabilia for them. The reason is so many requests are made that the celebrity does not have time to write all the signatures.

Often these signatures are made by mechanical devices that replicate the person’s signature. Politicians often use these mechanical signing machines to place their signature on letters to constituents. And there is no intent of deception in the signature.

What is a signature?

Black’s law dictionary, Tenth Edition, defines a signature as, “a person’s name or mark written by that person or at the person’s direction.” Therefore, a signature written by another at a person’s direction is a valid signature. Although the signature was not written by the person whose name appears in the signature, there is no intent to deceive.” Therefore, the signature is not a forgery.


Be careful when your document examiner opines a signature examined is a forgery. This may come back as a problem at your trial or arbitration hearing. Let the trier of fact determine whether a document is a forgery.

About the Author: Michael Wakshull, president of Q9 Consulting, is a civil and criminal court-qualified forensic document examiner providing services throughout the U.S.A. Cases include authentication of handwritten and computer-generated documents. Wakshull holds a Master of Science in technology management, a graduate school certificate in forensic document examination and has spoken at international forensics conferences including the World Congress of Forensics in China. He authors and presents document examination courses for minimum continuing legal education (MCLE). Wakshull is a member of the National Association of Document Examiners, past president of the San Diego Chapter of Forensic Expert Witness Association (FEWA), ASTM International, and a senior member of the American Society for Quality.

Mike has authored two books on the topic of forensic document examination. 

A National Speakers Association member, he is available to speak on these subjects.

Q9 Consutling, Inc.
Temecula, CA
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