PREAMBLE: SAFE™ provides the following Code of Ethics to provide members with guidelines for acceptable professional conduct.
Section I: Conflicting provisions
Wherever there is a conflict of interpretation between any of the following standards and an applicable law or regulation, whether municipal, state or federal, the applicable law or regulation shall prevail.
Section II: Law and Regulation
The forensic document examiner (hereafter “examiner”) shall adhere to all applicable laws and regulations in the conduct of business and in the performance of professional activities and services. This includes, but is not limited to:
(i) obtaining all required business and professional licenses and registrations,
(ii) payment of all business and personal taxes of all types, and
(iii) adherence to requirements for all testimonial acts in any legal proceeding the examiner is engaged in.
Section III: Advertising & Promotions
All types of advertising and promotions, including but not limited to traditional ads, directory listings, oral presentations to promote one’s services, broadcast appearances, and documents created to represent one’s services and qualifications must be accurate.
Section IV: Qualifications
The examiner shall maintain a current curriculum vitae (CV) and other documents setting forth one’s experience and qualifications as required by the rules of evidence. It is recommended that one update his or her CV every time a change takes place. Presentation of one’s professional qualifications shall be literally and strictly true and accurate in every particular.
Section V: Examination of Materials
The examiner should have reasonable assurances concerning the following, prior to undertaking the examination of materials submitted for testing or analysis:
(a) There must be a legitimate right to know on behalf of all inquirers,
(b )There should be assurance of confidentiality as far as the law permits, and
(c )The examiner is not responsible for the conduct of others, but for having reasonable assurance that the examiner will not be involved in illegal or unethical activity.
Section VI: Objectivity
(a) The examiner must approach all problems in an objective, open-minded way, basing all opinions on technically and! or scientifically correct premises.
(b) It must never be assumed the retaining party is in the right; or that a document is or is not genuine. In other words, the questions posed should be starting points of inquiry
and not requirements for conclusions.
(c) All opinions will be stated accurately, both orally and in writing.
Section VII: Advocacy
(a) An examiner acting as an expert witness shall not act as an advocate for one party’s
cause or contention but shall remain impartial and shall render opinions based
solely on verifiable observations, technically correct procedures, and scientifically valid
(b) An examiner may be retained by an attorney as a consultant instead of as an expert
Section VIII: Contingency
The examiner shall have no personal interest in the outcome, and therefore shall never work on a
contingent fee basis. Section IX: Standards of Performance The examiner shall adhere to proper and
accepted standards of performance. If some procedure or circumstance appears not to be
covered by any standards known to the examiner, the nearest applicable standards
should be adapted to the circumstance or advice sought from one’s supervisor, mentor or advisor.
Section X: Loyalty to the Client
(a) Once retained by one party in a case, the examiner is no longer available to assist any other party in that same case, except by the express written consent of the performing parties. Anyone involved must be apprised of a potential conflict of interest.
(b) If request by another party in a different case might result in prejudice to a current client,
written consent explicitly concerning this issue should also be obtained from all interested parties.
Section XI: Relations with Client’s Attorney
(a) The lay client’s attorney is the legal manager of the case and the examiner shall work with knowledge of and under the supervision of that attorney. Ideally, the examiner will be retained directly by counsel and by the client only with the knowledge and consent of counsel.
(b) The examiner must do nothing to interfere with the legal management of the case, or in any way act as legal counsel.
(c) Where the examiner is acting as confidential consulting expert, there must be no contact with anyone in the case other than the retaining attorney or designated staff members. All materials shall be kept in
complete confidence unless specifically instructed by the client’s attorney or otherwise legally obligated.
Section XII: Confidentiality
(a) During the case, all consultations and reports are confidential and the examiner may disclose the work and findings only through the attorney or as legally obligated to, as by deposition or court testimony.
(b) All contact with the lay client, opposing attorney or any others in the case should be by proper arrangement through the retaining attorney, unless there is clear and explicit understanding otherwise.
(c) After the case is concluded, it is advisable to act as if there is still an obligation of confidentiality unless assured otherwise.
Further, it is best to protect the privacy of all parties as much as reasonably possible when publishing information from a case in any manner.
Section XIII: Expeditious Work
All work should be done in a timely as well as thorough manner, according to agreed instructions.
Section XIV: Non-discrimination
The examiner shall not discriminate on the basis of race, nationality, religion, ethnic origins, sex, age or social or economic status. The same dedication and level of service should be given to all clients equally.
Section XV: Continuing Education
(a) The examiner shall keep abreast of current publications and developments in the profession of document examination.
(b) Attendance at professional meetings is encouraged, both to learn more and to be enriched by contacts with other professionals, as well as to contribute to new developments for the betterment of the
(c) There is a continual ethical obligation of self-study to increase knowledge and to gain greater skill. The examiner is encouraged to do research and publish as a way to enrich the profession and make a return for benefits received from the profession.
Section XVI: Fees
(a) The examiner’s fee structure and payment schedule should be stated clearly in a formal, printed Fee Schedule.
(b) The examiner, as a professional, shall in no circumstance accept referral fees from those one recommends, nor give referral fees to other examiners who ask for them.
Section XVII: Regarding Other Examiners
(a) All communications regarding other examiners shall be truthful. Negative communications shall be made only if fully justified and then restricted only to those with a legitimate right to the knowledge.
(b) When recommending another examiner to a client or attorney, one should have reasonable assurance of the competence and ethics of the one recommended.
Section XIX: General Obligation to the Profession
The examiner has an obligation to avoid bringing discredit to the profession and to comport oneself in an appropriate manner while performing professional duties. This includes protecting the good name of any professional organization to which one belongs, by developing professional competence, proper
social etiquette and personal good judgment.
Section XX: Ethics Procedures
The Scientific Association of Forensic Examiners will have procedures for hearings into violations of ethical norms by its members. These procedures are designed to facilitate complaints from members of the public against members of the organization as well as members against other members, in order to resolve complaints, redress any proven injuries to the complainants, and bring about corrections to
prevent future violations.