The modern forensic document laboratory contains some truly remarkable equipment that, when utilized, borders on what would apear to be magic to the lay person. However, as the majority of the caseload for the average forensic document examiner consists of handwriting and signature examinations, he relies upon some very basic, almost everyday, items. A document laboratory containing little more that a hand held magnifier, low-power microscope and a transmitted light apparatus has the equipment to adequately examine many of the cases that will be submitted.
The remainder of the equipment and instrumentation in the forensic document laboratory is requisite for the other, more intensive and complex examinations. While handwriting and signature examinations are the typical everyday fare for the examiner, these other examinations are best described as “forensic chases.” They may involve the use of specialized infra-red and ultraviiolet viewing equipment, chemical testing, sophisticated measuring devices, and indented writing machines.
Basic laboratory equipment contains:
Additionally, the well-equiped laboratory would contain the following specialized equipment (and an examiner
familiar with, and capable of using, the equipment):
Video-spectral Comparator (VSC)
Electro-static Detection Apparatus (ESDA)
Thin-layer Chromatography (TLC) testing chemicals and equipment
Typewriter Test Plates (Grids)
Stereo Zoom Microscope with trinocular head
The physical plant environment should provide a quiet examination atmosphere and the ability to control the lighting as needed, to include full spectrum lighting. It should be equiped to provide a negative pressure environment for those examinations requiring ESDA and TLC, Obviously, the office should have the equipment and technology to produce professional reports and court demonstations and have an area set aside for conferences, depositions, and the like.