As a rule, most FDEs refrain from using the word ‘forgery’ in their work.

To most people a ‘forgery’ refers to the production of a false document; an illegitimate document, signature, banknote, or work of art, for example. That concept is correct in everyday use, but the word also has a legal connotation that extends further.

In most legal contexts, ‘forgery’ involves “the creation of a false written document or alteration of a genuine one, with the intent to defraud.” It is the latter part of that definition, relating to ‘intent’, that bothers some FDEs. To a degree, their concern relates, in part, to the traditional approach taken by FDEs where a conclusion addresses the propositions directly (i.e., the document is or is not a forgery, with some degree of probability thrown in for good measure), rather than speaking to the evidence given the propositions (i.e., as is done in the logical approach to evidence evaluation). 

Of course, it is impossible to speak directly to the issue of the ‘intent to defraud’, regardless of which approach is used. That is something the Court must address based on all the evidence presented to them. As a result, rather than using the word ‘forgery’, examiners will talk about the manner in which a document has been produced and determine whether or not it is consistent with the legitimate production methods and events.1 

Now, having said the above, the most common methods encountered in handwriting cases where ‘forgery’ is of concern to the Court would be a tracing or free-hand simulation of writing on a document, either extended writing or a signature. Other forms of fraudulent document often encountered involve an alteration to some facet of an otherwise legitimate document, or the production of a completely illegitimate document (i.e., a spurious or counterfeit document).


  1. The whole process depends upon knowing what constitutes ‘legitimate production’ as a comparison point.

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