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Criminal Resource Manual

253. Handwriting Exemplars—Self-Incrimination

A handwriting exemplar, in contrast to the content of what is written, is an identifying physical characteristic which falls outside the protection of the Fifth Amendment. It is not testimonial or communicative in nature. See Gilbert v. California, supra. The government may introduce into evidence the fact that the suspect refused to provide an exemplar after being directed to do so by a court. United States v. Askew, 584 F.2d 960, 963 (10th Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 1132 (1979); United States v. Nix, 465 F.2d 90 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 409 U.S. 1013 (1972). The government may also introduce evidence that the individual intentionally distorted his/her handwriting when giving the exemplar. United States v. Stembridge, 477 F.2d 874 (5th Cir. 1973).