Forensic Examination of Documents and Handwriting 101: What Attorneys Need to Know about Altering Documents and Signatures


CLE credits earned: 2 GENERAL (or 2 LAW & LEGAL for WA state)

Forensic document examiners are often retained to determine whether a document has been altered or whether handwriting is written by the person who allegedly wrote it. The person making the alteration believes they are clever enough to avoid detection. Usually they leave traces of their misdeeds behind. This presentation offers an overview to attorneys to different types of alterations encountered by document examiners and methods of detecting the alterations. Participants will learn what the underlying basis for handwriting comparison is learning the different ways a person writes across writing sessions. The forensic document examiner uses tools such as microscopes to examine the writing in question to find small details that a simulator will not discover. The document examiner learns whether the questioned writing fits within the patterns observed in the person’s known writing. This seminar uses case studies to illustrate methods of authentication. Cases include the Zodiac Killer and the 2018 Zahau v. Shacknai case that resolved whether Rebecca Zahau was murdered or committed suicide at the Spreckels Mansion on Coronado Island near San Diego.

Key topics to be discussed:

•   Altered documents – Deeds filed with the county recorder
•   Alteration of a mortgage document
•   Tools used by forensic document examiners to look for alterations
•   Alteration of Computer generated documents
•   Discovery of cut-and-paste signatures
•   Alteration of medical records
•   Alteration of email
•   Is the Word document as purported?
•   Examining signatures written on digital tablets
•   Handwriting identification techniques
•   The 21 attributes of handwriting examined by forensic document examiners
•   When are various tools used to examine handwritten documents?
•   What are generally accepted methods of examining handwritten documents?
•   What is the basis of handwriting comparison?
•   What is the difference between simulated writing and disguised writing?

Date / Time: August 9, 2019

•   1:00 pm – 3:00 pm Eastern
•   12:00 pm – 2:00 pm Central
•   11:00 am – 1:00 pm Mountain
•   10:00 am – 12:00 pm Pacific

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•   Live Video Broadcast/Re-Broadcast: Watch Program “live” in real-time, must sign-in and watch program on date and time set above. May ask questions during presentation via chat box. Qualifies for “live” CLE credit.
•   On-Demand Video: Access CLE 24/7 via on-demand library and watch program anytime. Qualifies for self-study CLE credit. On-demand versions are made available 7 business days after the original recording date and are view-able for up to one year.

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Original Broadcast Date: August 9, 2019

Mike Wakshull, Esq. is a court-qualified forensic document examiner located in Temecula, CA. He partners with attorney clients to deliver results that often lead to early settlements in favor of the counsel who retained him. When cases go to trial, he presents them in jury-speak rather than techno-geek to educate the triers of fact. He applies his technical and science training to present a science-based approach to his opinions–a court requirement.

Mike has authored three books on the topic of forensic document examination. He has presented at several international forensics conferences and at conferences for attorneys. A member of several industry-related associations, he serves of the board of three. Mike has had forensic document examination cases from twenty states.

Mike was chair of the 2012 National Association of Document Examiners conference, the 2014 Scientific Association of Forensic Examiners Conference, and the 2015 Forensic Expert Witness Association conference. As vice president of Scientific Association of Forensic Examiners, he has been conference chair from 2014 – 2019.

He has been qualified as an expert witness in California Superior Courts and Federal District Court, testifying in cases involving will contests, contract disputes and others. Questioned documents discovered include an altered deed, cut‐and‐paste signatures, altered mortgage documents, altered handwritten documents, electronic documents, and many other types of questioned documents. Since the 1980s Mike has worked and studied in the science and discipline of document examination and handwriting analysis. Mike is one of a handful of forensic document examiners with a graduate school certificate in forensic document examination from an accredited university.

Mike is a member of the National Speakers Association. As was an invited speaker at the annual conference of the National Association of Document Examiners (NADE), Association of Forensic Document Examiners, World Congress of Forensics in Chongqing, China, California District Attorneys Association, and others. He has presented his research to assist in writer identification and courtroom bias.

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