Handwriting Authentication Services
Sheila Lowe began her study of handwriting in 1967 and later expanded her education and training to include document examination. She first qualified as a handwriting expert in 1985. Her work involves both civil and criminal matters, and she is often court-appointed in criminal cases throughout California, as well as being retained by offices of the Public Defender and private attorneys. Appointed to the Los Angeles County Superior Court Panel of Experts, she provides expert opinions in a broad spectrum of cases around the country and overseas.
Ms. Lowe makes presentations for MCLE at bar association and paralegal meetings and has taught Introduction to Handwriting Examination (a 20-hour program for credit) in the University of California’s CSI program in the Riverside Campus Extension, as well as Handwriting Analysis in the Discovery program at UC Santa Barbara. Her articles on handwriting examination have been published in numerous bar association magazines, including O.C. Lawyer and Citations.
Ms. Lowe’s clientele is comprised of law firms and private investigators, as well as human resource departments, corporate security, and government organizations. In some cases she works with individuals, but because there is no client privilege with the expert witness as there is between a client and his or her attorney, it is preferable that the attorney retain her. Thus, the client is protected.
If you have a suspected forgery, here is some information you’ll need to know:
Original samples of the questioned documents are always best evidence. Without them a qualified opinion will be offered (i.e., the opinion is tentative, pending examination of the original questioned document). When originals are unavailable, the next best is a a high quality digital photograph, a high-resolution scan, or last, a first-generation color copy. Black and white faxed copies are the least desirable.
A competent handwriting examiner needs good exemplars (samples of the writer’s uncontested handwriting) in order to make a comparison. The best exemplars will be similar in nature to the questioned document. Thus, if the writing in question is a signature on a check, the best comparison exemplars will be signatures on checks. If printed writing is to be examined, as is often the case in anonymous notes, printed exemplars should be submitted. The exemplars should be “course of business” writing not produced for the sake of the examination. Have as many exemplars as possible that were written contemporaneous with the questioned writing, and it may also be helpful to have writing from a range of dates.
If you are not sure where to find exemplars of signatures, here’s a link to 101 places to look.
The handwriting examiner will need some personal information about the person whose signature or handwriting is being questioned, such as their approximate age, gender, writing hand and state of health (sometimes including medical records). The following link contains a checklist of information that will be helpful. You may not have all the answers, but whatever you can provide will make the examiner’s job easier.
Like other professionals in the legal field, handwriting experts require a retainer for the first few hours (usually 3-5 hours) of work, and you will be required to sign a retainer agreement before any work is begun. In Southern California document examiner fees range from around $200-$450/hour. Most document examiners require a nonrefundable retainer amounting to 3 or 4 hours.
Here is a partial list of the types of documents Ms. Lowe regularly examines:
- Employment Agreements
- Anonymous letters
- And many others.
Note: Handwritten text and signatures need not be written in English for an examination and comparison to be undertaken.
For a copy of Ms. Lowe’s current curriculum vitae email email@example.com or call: (805) 658-0109.