1. What is the difference between a forensic document examiner and a graphologist?

A forensic document examiner (FDE) is a trained individual who applies allied sciences and analytical techniques to questions concerning documents, such as signatures, handwriting, printing processes, ink, and paper. Graphologists, on the other hand, attempt to predict character traits from handwriting examination. While some graphologists also may call themselves handwriting analysts or FDEs, most do not possess the required training, education, and apprenticeship qualifications required by the ABFDE, the certifying board established in 1977 with a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to recognize qualified FDEs in government laboratories and private practice.

2. How do I find a qualified forensic document examiner?

The best guideline when choosing a forensic document examiner is to analyze the FDE's certification, education, training, experience and professional memberships. Your expert should cite membership in at least one of the following recognized national and/or regional forensic science organizations: ASQDE, SWAFDE, SAFDE, MAFS, NEAFS, CSFS, AAFS, and should be certified by the ABFDE (American Board of Forensic Document Examiners).

Note that many so-called experts' resumes frequently state they are "court qualified," which is a meaningless term, indicating only that the judge allowed them to testify, which is not an endorsement of qualifications.

Be aware that there are many sound-alike organizations that have popped up in recent years that can easily be confused with the recognized organizations listed above. Be particularly wary of anyone who cites a correspondence or internet course as training in this field.

3. Are there any licensing requirements for a Forensic Document Examiner?

There is no licensing for this field at present. However, the certification requirements established by the ABFDE is a strong indication that the individual has met the rigorous education, training, apprenticeship, testing, and ongoing recertification requirements established. The minimum requirements for ABFDE certification are:

a) Baccalaureate degree
b) Full-time training program at a recognized document laboratory
c) Two years of additional independent document work
c) Full-time practice of forensic document examination