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Fire Scene Evidence Collection Guide


Writing Instruments


Detailed Procedure:

Writing instruments, inks, rubber stamps, seals, and the like should be collected when comparison to a questioned document is desired. The investigator should be alert for these items at the scene. Do not use the item to make any test impressions. Collect the item and allow the laboratory to do the testing.

To collect writing instruments:

  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. Place the item in the container and secure it (usually with cable ties), taking care to avoid areas where fingerprints might be lifted.

  5. 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.

Testing of these items may be able to:

  • Differentiate writing ink or instruments.

  • Use ink analysis to determine the date the document was authored or printed.

  • Compare the instrument and/or ink to a questioned document to determine if they can be associated. This includes determining if rubber stamps, seals, etc. made the impression on a questioned document.

  • Develop latent prints.

  • Collect DNA evidence.

The United States Secret Service and the Internal Revenue Service maintain standard ink libraries.


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

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