Volume 47, Issue 4 (July 2002)
Individuality of Handwriting
Motivated by several rulings in United States courts concerning expert testimony in general, and handwriting testimony in particular, we undertook a study to objectively validate the hypothesis that handwriting is individual. Handwriting samples of 1500 individuals, representative of the U.S. population with respect to gender, age, ethnic groups, etc., were obtained. Analyzing differences in handwriting was done by using computer algorithms for extracting features from scanned images of handwriting. Attributes characteristic of the handwriting were obtained, e.g., line separation, slant, character shapes, etc. These attributes, which are a subset of attributes used by forensic document examiners (FDEs), were used to quantitatively establish individuality by using machine learning approaches. Using global attributes of handwriting and very few characters in the writing, the ability to determine the writer with a high degree of confidence was established. The work is a step towards providing scientific support for admitting handwriting evidence in court. The mathematical approach and the resulting software also have the promise of aiding the FDE.