The Sheriff/Coroner is the elected public official responsible for investigating deaths within the county. The Sheriff delegates day-to-day Coroner operations to the Chief Deputy Coroner. The Patrol Deputies are also Deputy Coroners. They will also handle all investigations relating to any type of death: whether it is from natural causes, a suicide, or at the hands of another.
Per Government Code Section 27491, it shall be the duty of the Coroner to inquire into the circumstances, manner, and cause of all violent, sudden, or unusual deaths; unattended deaths; deaths wherein the deceased has not been attended by a physician in the 20-days before death; deaths related to or following known or suspected self-induced or criminal abortion; known or suspected homicide, suicide, or accidental poisoning; deaths known or suspected as resulting in whole or in part from or related to accident or injury either old or recent; deaths due to drowning, fire, hanging, gunshot, stabbing, cutting, exposure, starvation, acute alcoholism, drug addiction, strangulation, aspiration, or where the suspected cause of death is sudden infant death syndrome; death in whole or in part occasioned by criminal means; deaths associated with a known or alleged rape or crime against nature; deaths in prison or while under sentence; deaths known or suspected as due to contagious disease and constituting a public hazard; deaths from occupational diseases or occupational hazards; deaths of patients in state mental hospitals serving the mentally disabled and operated by the State Department of Mental Health; deaths of patients in state hospitals serving the developmentally disabled and operated by the State Department of Developmental Services; deaths under such circumstances as to afford a reasonable ground to suspect that the death was caused by the criminal act of another; and any deaths reported by physicians or other persons havng knowledge of death for inquiry by the Coroner. Inquiry pursuant to this section does not include those investigative functions usually performed by other law enforcement agencies. In any case, in which the Coroner conducts an inquiry pursuant to this section, the Coroner or a Deputy shall personally sign the certificate of death. If the death occurred in a state hospital, the Coroner shall forward a copy of his/her report to the state agency responsible for the state hospital. The Coroner shall have discretion to determine the extent of inquiry to be made into any death occurring under natual circumstances and falling within the provisions of this section, and if the inquiry determines that the physician of record has sufficient knowledge to reasonably state the cause of death occurring under natural circumstances, the Coroner may authorize that physician to sign the certificate of death.
The Coroner positively identifies the deceased, determines the circumstances and cause of death, takes charge of any property found upon the body,m and notifies the legal next of kin. The Coroner may investigate any death in the county; however, deaths resulting from long-term illness such as heart disease, Alzheimer's, diabetes, etc., and where an attending California licensed physician can state that the cause of death was natural, are not usually investigated by the Coroner.
A physician and surgeon, physician assistant, funeral director, or other person shall immediately notify the Coroner when he/she has knowledge of a death that occurred or has charge of a body in which death occurred under any of the following circumstances:
- Without medica attendance, which includes all deaths outside of hospitals or skilled nursing facilities.
- Wherein the deceased had not been attended by a physician in the 20-days prior to death.
- The attending physician is unable to render a reasonable opinion as to the cause of death.
- When homicide is known or suspected.
- When suicide is known or suspected.
- When a criminal action is involved or suspected to be involved in the death.
- Related to, or following known or suspected self-induced or criminal abortion.
- Associated with a known or alleged rape or crime against nature.
- Known or suspected as resulting in whole or in part from an accident or injury, either old or recent.
- When aspiration, starvation, exposure, drug addiction or acute alcoholism is the known or suspected cause.
- When poisoning is known or suspected.
- When occupational disease or hazards are the known or suspected cause.
- When a contagious disease is the known or suspected cause.
- When death occurred while in-custody of a law enforcement agency or while in prison.
- All deaths of state hospital patients.
- All Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) deaths.
- Deaths during or related to surgery or surgical procedures, or following a surgery or surgical procedure if the deceased did not awake from the anesthetic.
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