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Fire Scene Evidence Collection Guide


Typewriters and Printers


Detailed Procedure:

Typewriters and printers should be collected when the laboratory will be asked to determine the origin of a questioned document. Rather than take an exemplar at the scene, the entire machine should be collected so the laboratory can do a complete analysis. Do not attempt to remove the typewriter ribbon or ink cartridge; collect the entire typewriter or printer. If it is not possible to collect the typewriter or printer, consult the laboratory for further instructions and assistance.

To collect typewriters and printers:

  1. Photograph the item in place.

  2. Wear new, unused, clean latex or nitrile gloves.

  3. Label a rigid collection container large enough for the item, such as a box, with identifying information, including case number, date, exhibit number, a brief description, and your name.

  4. If the item is a printer attached to a computer, follow the proper procedure for collecting a computer before packaging the printer.

  5. Place the item in the container and secure it. Include any manuals, cables, or cartridges/ribbons that go with the typewriter/printer. Seal the container with evidence tape, and initial and date the tape.

  6. Store the item in a secure location, such as a locked evidence van or your vehicle, until you are able to transport it to the laboratory.

If the item is wet, dry it first using the procedure for wet documents as described under "Charred and/or Wet Documents" in this Guide.

Laboratory testing of typewriters and printers may be able to determine:

  • Whether a questioned document was typed on a particular typewriter or printed by a particular printer.

  • What make and model of typewriter or printer was used to type a questioned document.

  • Whether the text of a typed or printed document was prepared at the same time or whether the document was removed, reinserted, and additional typed/printed entries made.


Crime Scene and Evidence Collection Handbook. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, 2005.

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