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Questioned Document Examination

Questioned Document Examination is a traditional forensic examination, the main purpose of which is the established methods of making a document, the facts and ways of changing its content.


The objects of examination include the following documents:

  • banknotes that are or were in official circulation;
  • travel documents (tickets for travel by any means of transport and for the carriage of goods);
  • signs of postage (postage stamps, envelopes with stamps, postcards with stamps, etc.);
  • tickets for lotteries and instant lotteries;
  • documents proving identity, event, education, work experience;
  • documents serving money circulation (savings books, check books, deposit stamps, tax, customs, excise, insurance policies, licenses and other documents and securities stipulated by the current legislation);

The QDE objects are also materials for the production of documents, including paper, ink, paste for ballpoint pens, ink, etc., copy paper, ribbons for typewriters.
In addition to objects, there are technical means for the execution of requisites. These are devices for writing, character-printing (character-synthesizing) devices, means of duplicating equipment, printing plates.

To determine the method of changing the text of the document, an examination of the following objects is carried out:

  • paste-stroke;
  • corrective paper;
  • stain removers, etc.

In addition, objects of study also include items that are not documents in the literal sense of the word:

  • products made of various materials: wood, metal, ceramics, fabric, fur, leather, etc., on which it is necessary to identify faint or invisible records, impressions of stamps, to establish the nature of the coloring matter with which records are made on objects;
  • products made of paper and cardboard (containers, ropes, sanitary and hygienic products, for packaging and wrapping, details of industrial and technical and household products).

The QDE objects are divided into two groups: checked and comparative.

The objects to be checked are the following:

  • documents, the attitude of which to the case is determined by the results of the examination;
  • documents involved in the case;

Comparative objects are the following:

  • samples provided to the expert by a person or body assigned an examination, which are subdivided into free, conditionally free and experimental, in some cases samples placed in reference collections;
  • samples made by an expert in the course of research.


The QDE of the Criminalistics Laboratory of the Kyiv Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Expertise conducts the following examinations:

1. Establishing the facts of making changes to the content of the document by adding, etching, washing, etc., as well as restoring its original content.
2. Restoration of the content of the document that in due course lost strokes of signs on a surface (weakly visible or in general invisible strokes).
3. Establishing the method of making the document or its parts.
4. Carry out the identification of seals and stamps by its impressions.
5. Carry out the identification of character-printing (character-synthesizing) devices, that is, printers, typewriters and others.
6. Carry out an examination of the torn documents (establishing the whole document in parts).
7. Establishing the absolute prescription of documents.

Making changes to the document and restoring its content
In this case, the following types of documents are received for research:

  • old (in time) documents in which the text has faded;
  • new documents that were artificially aged and in which fragments were deliberately discolored;
  • forms of documents (passports, certificates, certificates) in which the text was deleted, and a new one was introduced in its place;
  • documents with disguised records (crossed out, smeared, flooded), as a result of which the text is difficult or impossible to read;
  • documents in which the text was added.

Establishment of a method for making a document
During this study, experts determine the method of making the document or parts of it. At the same time, the method of manufacturing a letterhead or other printed products is determined. Quite often, this type of research is used to determine the documents made with the help of installation, when the text is printed on a sheet of paper with existing signatures and stamps.

Identification of seals and stamps
This type of examination is carried out in order to establish the authenticity of the impression. The examination determines whether the imprint was applied with an invalid seal, or whether the same seal was imprinted in the submitted documents.

Identification of character-printing (character-synthesizing) devices
During this study, it is established:

  • method of making the document;
  • on which device it was made;
  • when the text was printed;
  • whether the text was changed by reprinting;
  • sample texts were printed on the same or different devices.

Examination of ripped texts

This establishes or compiled earlier parts of the document found at the scene of the incident as one whole; parts of the document that were seized from a citizen belonged to a specific document; or a receipt was made, parts of which were removed from the citizen on a sheet of paper torn from a notebook.

In order to resolve the issue of whether the fragments of the six sheets submitted for examination were made up a single whole, the details contained on them were studied, as well as the study of these fragments by comparative analysis and comparing them along the separation lines using.

Establishing the absolute age of documents

This type of research is one of the main tasks of the technical examination of documents, which allows you to determine the time of execution of the document. To determine the age of execution, experts examine each attribute of the document (text, prints, stamps, handwritten execution details) and compare the results with each other.
The age of the execution of the typewritten text is established by the study of technological data, signs of wear of the font, typewritten tape and defects in the printing mechanism.
The age of the text made on the printer can be established by comparing it with free samples-documents made on the same printer during the entire period of the checked one.
The age of handwritten strokes is established by temporary changes in the composition and properties of the writing material in strokes.


In general, the QDE depending on the object of research and tasks, answers a number of the following questions.
On the tasks of the examination of handwritten objects, questions can be formed as follows:

  • In what way were the writings made (with a writing device or with the use of copying and duplicating equipment, by cutting)?
  • What kind (type) of writing device were used for the writings?
  • Is the signature made by preliminary technical preparation, by means of facsimile?
  • In what order are the strokes of handwritten notes and other intersecting details applied?
  • Have the handwritten notes been changed by adding, completing individual strokes, performing some strokes on top of others?
  • Were changes made to the manuscript by cleaning?
  • Were changes made to the manuscript by etching (washing)?
  • What is the content of writings deleted by: digestion, cleaning, etc.?
  • What is the content of the sealed writings?
  • What is the content of flooded, crossed out, blurred writings?
  • What is the point of impressed writings?
  • What is the point of faded writings?
  • Are the same or different typewriters writing in the document?
  • Was the typewriter provided for examination used to make entries in the document?
  • Was the writing instrument provided for examination used to make notes on the document?

On the tasks of the examination of impressions of printed forms, that is, impressions of seals and stamps, questions can be formed as follows:

  • How is the image of the seal imprint (stamp) applied in the document?
  • How was the seal (stamp) made, the imprint of which is in the document?
  • Whether the time of the application of the seal (stamp) corresponds to the date specified in the document; has a seal (stamp) imprint been applied in the time interval?
  • In what sequence are the elements of the imprint of the seal (stamp) and other details of the document with which it intersects?
  • Has the document been imprinted with the provided seal (stamp)?
  • Are the documents imprinted with one or different seals (stamps)?

On the tasks of examination of texts made on character-printing (character-synthesizing) devices, the following questions can be formed:

  • How is the text made?
  • Whether the execution time of the printed text corresponds to the date specified in the document, in which time interval is the printed text (on a typewriter, on a printer)?
  • In what order is the printed text and other details of the document executed?
  • Is a sheet of paper or part of another document with a signature (s) already present and imprinted on it executed to execute the text?
  • What typewriter, type brand, model was used to perform typewritten text?
  • What type of character-printing device was used to execute the text of the document?
  • Has the content of the text been changed by cleaning up?
  • Has the content of the text been altered by etching?
  • Has the content of the text been changed by reprinting?
  • What was the original meaning of the text that was changed?
  • Are the texts of documents executed on one or different typewriters (other typewriters)?
  • Is the text made on the same character-printing (character-synthesizing) devices, and samples of texts are provided?

On the tasks of examination of printing products, the following questions can be formed:

  • How the text and all the details of the form are made; how is the banknote made?
  • Is the text made by printing method?
  • Have the documents submitted for examination been produced in the same way (driver’s licenses, passports, diplomas, etc.)?
  • Have the individual requisites of the document forms been completed by cutting?
  • Does the form provided for the study (banknote, etc.) correspond to similar documents (banknotes) that are (were) in official circulation?
  • Does the form submitted for research correspond to similar undoubted forms made at the enterprise that carries out their production?
  • Whether the provided documents are printed from one set (forms, clichés);
  • Did the sheets in the passport (another bound document) change?

On the tasks of the examination of the glued and fastened together details, questions can be formed:

  • Has the photo (stamp, label) been replaced (pasted) in the document?
  • Have the sheets been replaced in the document?
  • Has the document (magazine, filing) been altered?

On the tasks of examination of torn documents, the following questions can be formed:

  • Part of which product is a torn fragment of a sheet? Did the provided sheet of paper of the document belong to the provided notebook (another specific product), in which part of the sheets is missing?
  • Whether the previously provided fragments of the document were one whole?
  • What is the original type and content of the torn documents?


Examination’s capabilities largely depend on the preparation of materials for its conduct.

To solve most of the above questions that are posed before the QDE, it is necessary to provide the originals of the documents, and not its technical images (copies).

When preparing the materials, certain requirements for handling material evidence must be met, the tasks for the expert must be clearly formulated, the necessary comparative materials must be collected, the information necessary for the examination must be collected as well.

According to the rules for handling documents – material evidence, developed by forensic science, the investigator (court) is obliged:

  • provide the expert with documents in the form and condition in which they were found (provided);
  • keep documents, that is material evidence in separate envelopes (packages, files), do not stick anything on a sheet of paper to attach to the case file;
  • to fold and fold letters of paper documents only along the existing folds;
  • protect documents from exposure to light, moisture, high temperatures, as this can lead to significant changes of its properties;
  • to use tweezers when examining documents, so as not to stain them, not to leave fingerprints on them (this may complicate the identification of a person by handprints on documents if the documents become the object of a trace evidence examination);
  • special care should be taken when discovering, fixing and packing burnt documents;
  • do not mark, outline, instructions on documents;
  • do not staple the sheets or one of the sheets of the document under examination, be it with anything with a stapler, hole punch, etc., since the extra holes on the paper complicate the solution of issues on replacing sheets in the document.

In the document on the appointment of the examination, it is necessary to specify the objects to be investigated:

  • indicate the full name of the document, the date of its preparation given in the document;
  • provide information about the circumstances of the discovery of documents, material evidence (date, place of discovery, seizure);
  • indicate the direct object of research, that is, describe its content (sign, word, line, etc.), location in the document;
  • when sending the case materials for examination, indicate the location of the document in the case materials: case letter; clearly identify the documents under study and comparative materials, so as not to lead to their confusion during the examination.

It is not allowed to submit for examination a technical image of the document (copy) instead of its original:

  • when appointing examinations requiring material science studies of the document (determining the composition of the letter materials in the details, determining the composition and properties of the base, etc.);
  • when identify impressions of seals, stamps, printing equipment, writing device;when determinate changes in the document and the establishment of its initial content.

A question to an expert should not go beyond his/her competence; require a legal assessment of the research results. When formulating a task, an expert is not allowed to use terms that have a double interpretation, technical and legal, namely: “correction”, “fake” as synonyms of the terms: “change”, “non-compliance with the sample”.

The question of similarity, homogeneity, identity, common generic (group) affiliation, simultaneity are questions with an indefinite assignment to an expert. For example, the question of the simultaneous execution of several documents or fragments of one document is a typical case of uncertainty of the task for an expert.

The term “simultaneity” is appropriate only for docum ents made in one-step: in one tab using carbon paper or self-copy paper. In other cases, the term “simultaneity” requires clarification: the time interval is of interest to the investigation (court), or when the text is executed using a printer, the sheets are printed one after another, therefore, “simultaneity” in this case is the execution of all sheets of the document in one printing cycle (in one-step).

If technical means become the objects of examination: writing instruments, character-printing (character-synthesizing) devices, means of duplicating equipment, printing forms, then, depending on the expert task and the specific situation, either technical means can be presented for examination directly or comparative materials, that is, samples of the following types: experimental samples or (and) free samples.

Some methods of expert research are associated with partial damage to the object (changing the properties of the coloring matter in the strokes of a signature, imprint, and text) or even its complete destruction (cutting out strokes). Such methods are used with the permission of the body or person who ordered the examination.

The specified permission must be contained in the document on the appointment of the examination or in the corresponding letter. Permission for partial destruction of a document, taking samples, clippings from strokes is mandatory for solving the following tasks:

  • establishing the limitation period for the execution of the document;
  • establishing the statute of limitations for the execution of the document;
  • establishing the fact of additional writing;
  • identification of the writing device by strokes;
  • identification of the printer by texts.