Expert Article Library

Tracking Handguns Through Handwriting

Case Name: United States v. Smith


Court: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit; on appeal from Eastern District of North Carolina

Date: September 30, 2005

Type of expert: Handwriting – Document Examination. Carl McClary, ATF document examiner

Issue: Is a handwriting expert’s testimony admissible?

Summary of case: Defendant was convicted of a series of federal firearms violations. The prosecution produced a handwriting expert who testified that defendant’s signature matched one on a pawnshop receipt.

Role of the expert: Handwriting expert matched defendant’s signature to pawnshop receipt.

Expert analysis: Defendant argued that handwriting analysis was scientifically proven and thus failed the Daubert requirement. The Court ruled that “handwriting analysis has the reliability that Daubert requires even if it does not have the status of scientific law.” Handwriting comparisons have generally become accepted and Defendant didn’t present any evidence that handwriting analysis was unreliable.

Summary prepared by J. Baik, Student, University of San Francisco School of Law