The modern forensic document laboratory contains some truly remarkable equipment that, when utilized, borders on what would appear to be magic to the lay person. While the majority of the caseload for the average forensic document examiner consists of handwriting and signature examinations which demand little specialized equipment, the full-service laboratory demands instrumentation, equipment, and procedures that are requisite for other, more intensive and complex examinations. These other examinations, at times best described as “forensic chases,” demand the use of specialized infra-red and ultraviolet viewing equipment (VSC), chemical testing, sophisticated measuring devices, and indented writing recovery machines (ESDA).
Full-service forensic document laboratory equipment:
Handheld low-power magnifier
Transmitted light apparatus (XLA)
Electro-static Detection Apparatus (ESDA)
Thin-layer Chromatography (TLC) testing materials and equipment
Typewriter Test Plates (Grids)
Stereo Zoom Microscope with trinocular head, boom stand, and suitable archival media
Additionally, and obviously, the laboratory must have the office equipment needed to produce professional reports, court demonstration materials, archival systems and associated software, and case tracking/conflict ability and the associated software. Further, a substantial library consisting of applicable texts and reference materials must be at hand.
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 equipped to provide a negative pressure environment for those examinations requiring ESDA and TLC and there should be an area set aside for conferences, depositions, and the like.