Code Section Group

Government Code - GOV

TITLE 3. GOVERNMENT OF COUNTIES [23000 - 33205]

  ( Title 3 added by Stats. 1947, Ch. 424. )

DIVISION 2. OFFICERS [24000 - 28085]

  ( Division 2 added by Stats. 1947, Ch. 424. )

PART 3. OTHER OFFICERS [26500 - 27773]

  ( Part 3 added by Stats. 1947, Ch. 424. )

CHAPTER 10. Coroner [27460 - 27530]

  ( Chapter 10 added by Stats. 1947, Ch. 424. )

ARTICLE 2. Inquests [27490 - 27512]
  ( Article 2 added by Stats. 1947, Ch. 424. )

27490.
  

The coroner shall hold inquests pursuant to this article.

(Added by Stats. 1947, Ch. 424.)

27491.
  

It shall be the duty of the coroner to inquire into and determine the circumstances, manner, and cause of all violent, sudden, or unusual deaths; unattended deaths; deaths where the deceased has not been attended by either a physician or a registered nurse, who is a member of a hospice care interdisciplinary team, as defined by subdivision (g) of Section 1746 of the Health and Safety Code 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 State Hospitals; 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 having knowledge of death for inquiry by coroner. Inquiry pursuant to this section does not include those investigative functions usually performed by other law enforcement agencies.

(a) 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 or her report to the state agency responsible for the state hospital.

(b) The coroner shall have discretion to determine the extent of inquiry to be made into any death occurring under natural circumstances and falling within the provisions of this section, and if inquiry determines that the physician of record has sufficient knowledge to reasonably state the cause of a death occurring under natural circumstances, the coroner may authorize that physician to sign the certificate of death.

(c) For the purpose of inquiry, the coroner shall have the right to exhume the body of a deceased person when necessary to discharge the responsibilities set forth in this section.

(d) Any funeral director, physician, or other person who has charge of a deceased person’s body, when death occurred as a result of any of the causes or circumstances described in this section, shall immediately notify the coroner. Any person who does not notify the coroner as required by this section is guilty of a misdemeanor.

(Amended by Stats. 2015, Ch. 303, Sec. 223. Effective January 1, 2016.)

27491.1.
  

In all cases in which a person has died under circumstances that afford a reasonable ground to suspect that the person’s death has been occasioned by the act of another by criminal means, the coroner, upon determining that those reasonable grounds exist, shall immediately notify the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over the criminal investigation. Notification shall be made by the most direct communication available. The report shall state the name of the deceased person, if known, the location of the remains, and other information received by the coroner relating to the death, including any medical information of the decedent that is directly related to the death. The report shall not include any information contained in the decedent’s medical records regarding any other person unless that information is relevant and directly related to the decedent’s death.

(Amended by Stats. 2000, Ch. 1068, Sec. 2. Effective January 1, 2001.)

27491.2.
  

(a) The coroner or the coroner’s appointed deputy, on being informed of a death and finding it to fall into the classification of deaths requiring his or her inquiry, may immediately proceed to where the body lies, examine the body, make identification, make inquiry into the circumstances, manner, and means of death, and, as circumstances warrant, either order its removal for further investigation or disposition or release the body to the next of kin.

(b) For purposes of inquiry, the body of one who is known to be dead from any of the causes or under any of the circumstances described in Section 27491 shall not be disturbed or moved from the position or place of death without permission of the coroner or the coroner’s appointed deputy. Any violation of this subdivision is a misdemeanor.

(Amended by Stats. 1985, Ch. 304, Sec. 4.)

27491.25.
  

The coroner, or the coroner’s appointed deputy, on being notified of a death occurring while the deceased was driving or riding in a motor vehicle, or as a result of the deceased being struck by a motor vehicle, shall take blood and urine samples from the body of the deceased before it has been prepared for burial and make appropriate related chemical tests to determine the alcoholic contents, if any, of the body. The coroner may perform other chemical tests including, but not limited to, barbituric acid and amphetamine derivative as deemed appropriate.

The detailed medical findings, resulting from those examinations that are conducted, shall either be reduced to writing or permanently preserved on recording discs or other similar recording media and shall include all positive and negative findings pertinent to the presence or absence of any alcoholic or other substance content.

This section shall not apply to the testing of deceased persons under the age of 15 years, unless the surrounding circumstances indicate the possibility of alcoholic, barbituric acid, and amphetamine derivative consumption, nor shall it apply when the death has occurred more than 24 hours after the accident.

(Amended by Stats. 1993, Ch. 389, Sec. 1. Effective January 1, 1994.)

27491.3.
  

(a) In any death into which the coroner is to inquire, the coroner may take charge of any and all personal effects, valuables, and property of the deceased at the scene of death or related to the inquiry and hold or safeguard them until lawful disposition thereof can be made. The coroner may lock the premises and apply a seal to the door or doors prohibiting entrance to the premises, pending arrival of a legally authorized representative of the deceased. However, this shall not be done in such a manner as to interfere with the investigation being conducted by other law enforcement agencies. Any costs arising from the premises being locked or sealed while occupied by property of the deceased may be a proper and legal charge against the estate of the deceased. Unless expressly permitted by law, any person who enters any premises or tampers with or removes any lock or seal in violation of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor.

(b) Any property or evidence related to the investigation or prosecution of any known or suspected criminal death may, with knowledge of the coroner, be delivered to a law enforcement agency or district attorney, receipt for which shall be acknowledged.

(c) Except as otherwise provided in subdivision (d), any person who searches for or removes any papers, moneys, valuable property or weapons constituting the estate of the deceased from the person of the deceased or from the premises, prior to arrival of the coroner or without the permission of the coroner, is guilty of a misdemeanor. At the scene of any death, when it is immediately apparent or when it has not been previously recognized and the coroner’s examination reveals that police investigation or criminal prosecution may ensue, the coroner shall not further disturb the body or any related evidence until the law enforcement agency has had reasonable opportunity to respond to the scene, if their purposes so require and they so request. Custody and control of the body shall remain with the coroner at all times. Reasonable time at the scene shall be allowed by the coroner for criminal investigation by other law enforcement agencies, with the time and location of removal of the remains to a convenient place to be determined at the discretion of the coroner.

(d) A peace officer may search the person or property on or about the person of the deceased, whose death is due to a traffic accident, for a driver’s license or identification card to determine if an anatomical donor card is attached. If a peace officer locates such an anatomical donor card which indicates that the deceased is an anatomical donor, the peace officer shall immediately furnish such information to the coroner having jurisdiction.

“Peace officer,” as used in this subdivision, means only those persons designated in Sections 830.1 and 830.2 of the Penal Code.

(Amended by Stats. 1985, Ch. 304, Sec. 5.)

27491.4.
  

(a) For purposes of inquiry the coroner shall, within 24 hours or as soon as feasible thereafter, where the suspected cause of death is sudden infant death syndrome and, in all other cases, the coroner may, in his or her discretion, take possession of the body, which shall include the authority to exhume the body, order it removed to a convenient place, and make or cause to be made a postmortem examination, or cause to be made an autopsy thereon, and make or cause to be made an analysis of the stomach, stomach contents, blood, organs, fluids, or tissues of the body. The detailed medical findings resulting from an inspection of the body or autopsy by an examining licensed physician and surgeon shall be either reduced to writing or permanently preserved on recording discs or other similar recording media, shall include all positive and negative findings pertinent to establishing the cause of death in accordance with medicolegal practice and this, along with the written opinions and conclusions of the examining licensed physician and surgeon, shall be included in the coroner’s record of the death. The coroner shall have the right to retain only those tissues of the body removed at the time of the autopsy as may, in his or her opinion, be necessary or advisable to the inquiry into the case, or for the verification of his or her findings. Only individuals who are directly involved in the investigation of the death of the decedent may be present during the performance of the autopsy.

(b) In any case in which the coroner knows, or has reason to believe, that the deceased has made valid provision for the disposition of his or her body or a part or parts thereof for medical or scientific purposes in accordance with Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 7150) of Part 1 of Division 7 of the Health and Safety Code, the coroner shall neither perform nor authorize any other person to perform an autopsy on the body unless the coroner has contacted or attempted to contact the physician last in attendance to the deceased. If the physician cannot be contacted, the coroner shall then notify or attempt to notify one of the following of the need for an autopsy to determine the cause of death: (1) the surviving spouse; (2) a surviving child or parent; (3) a surviving brother or sister; (4) any other kin or person who has acquired the right to control the disposition of the remains. Following a period of 24 hours after attempting to contact the physician last in attendance and notifying or attempting to notify one of the responsible parties listed above, the coroner may authorize the performance of an autopsy, as otherwise authorized or required by law.

(c) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to prohibit the discretion of the coroner to cause to be conducted an autopsy upon any victim of sudden, unexpected, or unexplained death or any death known or suspected of resulting from an accident, suicide, or apparent criminal means, or other death, as described in Section 27491.

(Amended by Stats. 2016, Ch. 787, Sec. 1. Effective January 1, 2017.)

27491.41.
  

(a) For purposes of this section, “sudden infant death syndrome” means the sudden death of any infant that is unexpected by the history of the infant and where a thorough postmortem examination fails to demonstrate an adequate cause of death.

(b) The Legislature finds and declares that sudden infant death syndrome, also referred to as SIDS, is the leading cause of death for children under age one, striking one out of every 500 children. The Legislature finds and declares that sudden infant death syndrome is a serious problem within the State of California, and that the public interest is served by research and study of sudden infant death syndrome and its potential causes and indications.

(c) (1) To facilitate these purposes, the coroner shall, within 24 hours or as soon thereafter as feasible, cause an autopsy to be performed in any case where an infant has died suddenly and unexpectedly.

(2) However, if the attending licensed physician and surgeon desires to certify that the cause of death is sudden infant death syndrome, an autopsy may be performed at the discretion of the coroner. If the coroner causes an autopsy to be performed pursuant to this section, he or she shall also certify the cause of death.

(d) The autopsy shall be conducted pursuant to a standardized protocol developed by the State Department of Public Health. The protocol is exempt from the procedural requirements pertaining to the adoption of administrative rules and regulations pursuant to Article 5 (commencing with Section 11346) of Chapter 3.5 of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code.

(e) The protocol shall be followed by all coroners throughout the state when conducting an evaluation as part of an autopsy required by this section. The coroner shall state on the certificate of death that sudden infant death syndrome was the cause of death when the coroner’s findings are consistent with the definition of sudden infant death syndrome specified in the standardized autopsy protocol. The protocol may include requirements and standards for scene investigations, requirements for specific data, criteria for ascertaining cause of death based on the autopsy, and criteria for any specific tissue sampling, and any other requirements. The protocol may also require that specific tissue samples shall be provided to a central tissue repository designated by the State Department of Public Health.

(f) The State Department of Public Health shall establish procedures and protocols for access by researchers to any tissues, or other materials or data authorized by this section. Research may be conducted by any individual with a valid scientific interest and prior approval from the State Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects. The tissue samples, the materials, and all data shall be subject to the confidentiality requirements of Section 103850 of the Health and Safety Code.

(g) The coroner may take tissue samples for research purposes from infants who have died suddenly and unexpectedly without consent of the responsible adult if the tissue removal is not likely to result in any visible disfigurement.

(h) A coroner or licensed physician and surgeon shall not be liable for damages in a civil action for any act or omission done in compliance with this section.

(i)  Consent of any person is not required before undertaking the autopsy required by this section.

(Amended by Stats. 2016, Ch. 787, Sec. 2. Effective January 1, 2017.)

27491.43.
  

(a) (1) Notwithstanding any other law, except as otherwise provided in this section, in any case in which the coroner, before the beginning of an autopsy, dissection, or removal of corneal tissue, pituitary glands, or any other organ, tissue, or fluid, has received a certificate of religious belief, executed by the decedent as provided in subdivision (b), that the procedure would be contrary to his or her religious belief, the coroner shall neither perform, nor order the performance of, that procedure on the body of the decedent.

(2) If, before beginning the procedure, the coroner is informed by a relative or a friend of the decedent that the decedent had executed a certificate of religious belief, the coroner shall not order an autopsy to be performed, except as otherwise provided in this section, for 48 hours. If the certificate is produced within 48 hours, the case shall be governed by this section. If the certificate is not produced within that time, the case shall be governed by the other provisions of this article.

(b) Any person, 18 years of age or older, may execute a certificate of religious belief which shall state in clear and unambiguous language that any postmortem anatomical dissection or that specified procedures would violate the religious convictions of the person. The certificate shall be signed and dated by the person in the presence of at least two witnesses. Each witness shall also sign the certificate and shall print on the certificate his or her name and residence address.

(c) Notwithstanding the existence of a certificate, the coroner may at any time cause an autopsy to be performed or any other procedure if he or she has a reasonable suspicion that the death was caused by the criminal act of another or by a contagious disease constituting a public health hazard.

(d) (1) If a certificate is produced, and if subdivision (c) does not apply, the coroner may petition the superior court, without fee, for an order authorizing an autopsy or other procedure or for an order setting aside the certificate as invalid. Notice of the proceeding shall be given to the person who produced the certificate. The proceeding shall have preference over all other cases.

(2) The court shall set aside the certificate if it finds that the certificate was not properly executed or that it does not clearly state the decedent’s religious objection to the proposed procedure.

(3) The court may order an autopsy or other procedure despite a valid certificate if it finds that the cause of death is not evident, and that the interest of the public in determining the cause of death outweighs its interest in permitting the decedent and like persons fully to exercise their religious convictions.

(4) Any procedure performed pursuant to paragraph (3) shall be the least intrusive procedure consistent with the order of the court.

(5) If the petition is denied, and no stay is granted, the body of the deceased shall immediately be released to the person authorized to control its disposition.

(e) In any case in which the circumstances, manner, or cause of death is not determined because of the provisions of this section, the coroner may state on the certificate of death that an autopsy was not conducted because of the provisions of this section.

(f) A coroner shall not be liable for damages in a civil action for any act or omission taken in compliance with the provisions of this section.

(Amended by Stats. 2016, Ch. 787, Sec. 3. Effective January 1, 2017.)

27491.44.
  

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the coroner is authorized to do all of the following:

(a) Assist the people of this state, as appropriate, in the implementation of the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act contained in Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 7150) of Part 1 of Division 7 of the Health and Safety Code, and in the otherwise lawful utilization of medically proven organ and tissue transplant procedures.

(b) Cooperate in the authorized removal and timely disposition of human organs and tissue from the bodies of deceased persons, including victims of homicide, in accordance with law and accepted medical practice.

(c) Assist medical and health service agencies in identifying donors of human organs and tissues, for purposes of providing life-enhancing benefits of transplant surgery to recipients under duly sanctioned medical conditions.

(d) Ask the deceased person’s next of kin, at the time of notification of death, whether the deceased was a donor or if the family was a donor family. If not, the coroner is authorized to inform them of their option to donate viable organs and tissues.

(e) Enter into agreements with one or more procurement organizations to coordinate organ recovery procedures within that coroner’s jurisdiction or in cooperation with other coroners throughout the state.

(f) Contract with or receive assistance of any kind from any public or private entity for the purpose of providing education and training to his or her personnel in pathology or any other area of the healing arts and sciences that will assist in timely determination of the causes of death.

(Amended by Stats. 1996, Ch. 827, Sec. 2. Effective January 1, 1997.)

27491.45.
  

(a) (1) The coroner shall have the right to retain parts of the body, as defined in subdivision (g) of Section 7150.1 of the Health and Safety Code, removed at the time of autopsy or acquired during a coroner’s investigation as may, in the opinion of the coroner, be necessary or advisable for scientific investigation and training. The coroner may employ or use outside laboratories, hospitals, or research institutions in the conduct of the coroner’s scientific investigation or training.

(2) Parts of the body retained pursuant to paragraph (1) may be released by the coroner to hospitals, medical educational research institutions, and law enforcement agencies for noncoroner training, educational, and research purposes, either upon consent of the decedent or other person, as specified in Section 7151 of the Health and Safety Code, or after a reasonable effort has been made to locate and inform persons listed in subdivision (a) of Section 7151 of the Health and Safety Code of their option to consent or object to the release, and the appropriate person consents or that effort has been unsuccessful. A reasonable effort shall be deemed to have been made when a search for the persons has been underway for at least 12 hours. The search shall include a check of local police missing persons records, examination of personal effects, and the questioning of any persons visiting the decedent before his or her death or in the hospital, accompanying the decedent’s body, or reporting the death, in order to obtain information that might lead to the location of any persons listed in subdivision (a) of Section 7151 of the Health and Safety Code.

(b) The coroner may, in his or her discretion, allow removal of parts of the body by a licensed physician and surgeon or trained transplant technician for transplant, or therapeutic, or scientific purposes pursuant to Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 7150) of Part 1 of Division 7 of the Health and Safety Code, only if the following conditions are met:

(1) The provision of the part will not unnecessarily mutilate the body or interfere with the autopsy.

(2) The decedent or other person, as specified in Section 7151 of the Health and Safety Code, has consented to the provision of the part, as prescribed by Section 7154 of the Health and Safety Code, or after a reasonable effort has been made to locate and inform persons listed in subdivision (a) of Section 7151 of the Health and Safety Code of their option to consent or object to the release, and the appropriate person consents, or that effort has been unsuccessful. A reasonable effort shall be deemed to have been made when a search for the persons has been underway for at least 12 hours. The search shall include a check of local police missing persons records, examination of personal effects, and the questioning of any persons visiting the decedent before his or her death or in the hospital, accompanying the decedent’s body, or reporting the death, in order to obtain information that might lead to the location of any persons listed in subdivision (a) of Section 7151 of the Health and Safety Code. In obtaining this gift, the coroner shall notify the donor of the specific part or parts requested and shall obtain the donor’s informed consent, as provided in Section 7150.5 or 7151 of the Health and Safety Code.

(c) Nothing in this section shall be construed as limiting any right provided for in Section 7152 of the Health and Safety Code.

(d) For purposes of this section, “trained transplant technician” means a person who has completed training in tissue removal for transplant or therapeutic, or scientific purposes, which the coroner determines to be adequate for the purposes.

(Amended by Stats. 2000, Ch. 830, Sec. 1. Effective January 1, 2001.)

27491.46.
  

(a) The coroner shall have the right to retain pituitary glands solely for transmission to a university, for use in research or the advancement of medical science, in those cases in which the coroner has required an autopsy to be performed pursuant to this chapter, and during a 48-hour period following such autopsy the body has not been claimed and the coroner has not been informed of any relatives of the decedent.

(b) In the course of any autopsy, the coroner may cause to be removed the pituitary gland from the body for transmittal to any public agency for use in manufacturing a hormone necessary for the physical growth of persons who are, or may become, hypopituitary dwarfs, if the coroner has no knowledge of objection to the removal and release of the pituitary gland having been made by the decedent or any other person specified in Section 7151.5 of the Health and Safety Code. Neither the coroner nor the medical examiner authorizing the removal of the pituitary gland, nor any hospital, medical center, tissue bank, storage facility, or person acting upon the request, order, or direction of the coroner or medical examiner in the removal of the pituitary gland pursuant to this section, shall incur civil liability for the removal of the pituitary gland in an action brought by any person who did not object prior to the removal of the pituitary gland, nor be subject to criminal prosecution for removal of the pituitary gland pursuant to the authority of this section.

Nothing in this subdivision shall supersede the terms of any gift made pursuant to Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 7150) of Part 1 of Division 7 of the Health and Safety Code.

(Amended by Stats. 2016, Ch. 787, Sec. 4. Effective January 1, 2017.)

27491.47.
  

(a) Notwithstanding any other law, the coroner may, in the course of an autopsy, authorize the removal and release of corneal eye tissue from a body within the coroner’s custody, if all of the following conditions are met:

(1) The autopsy has otherwise been authorized.

(2) The coroner has no knowledge of objection to the removal and release of corneal tissue having been made by the decedent or any other person specified in Section 7151 of the Health and Safety Code and has obtained any one of the following:

(A) A dated and signed written consent by the donor or any other person specified in Section 7151 of the Health and Safety Code on a form that clearly indicates the general intended use of the tissue and contains the signature of at least one witness.

(B) Proof of the existence of a recorded telephonic consent by the donor or any other person specified in Section 7151 of the Health and Safety Code in the form of an audio recording of the conversation or a transcript of the recorded conversation, which indicates the general intended use of the tissue.

(C) A document recording a verbal telephonic consent by the donor or any other person specified in Section 7151 of the Health and Safety Code, witnessed and signed by no fewer than two members of the requesting entity, hospital, eye bank, or procurement organization, memorializing the consenting person’s knowledge of and consent to the general intended use of the gift.

The form of consent obtained under subparagraph (A), (B), or (C) shall be kept on file by the requesting entity and the official agency for a minimum of three years.

(3) The removal of the tissue will not unnecessarily mutilate the body, be accomplished by enucleation, nor interfere with the autopsy.

(4) The tissue will be removed by a licensed physician and surgeon or a trained transplant technician.

(5) The tissue will be released to a public or nonprofit facility for transplant, therapeutic, or scientific purposes.

(b) Neither the coroner nor medical examiner authorizing the removal of the corneal tissue, nor any hospital, medical center, tissue bank, storage facility, or person acting upon the request, order, or direction of the coroner or medical examiner in the removal of corneal tissue pursuant to this section, shall incur civil liability for the removal in an action brought by any person who did not object prior to the removal of the corneal tissue, nor be subject to criminal prosecution for the removal of the corneal tissue pursuant to this section.

(c) This section shall not be construed to interfere with the ability of a person to make an anatomical gift pursuant to the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 7150) of Part 1 of Division 7 of the Health and Safety Code).

(Amended by Stats. 2016, Ch. 787, Sec. 5. Effective January 1, 2017.)

27491.5.
  

The cause of death appearing on a certificate of death signed by the coroner shall be in conformity with facts ascertained from inquiry, autopsy and other scientific findings. In case of death without medical attendance and without violence, casualty, criminal or undue means, the coroner may, without holding an inquest or autopsy, make the certificate of death from statements of relatives, persons last in attendance, or persons present at the time of death, after due medical consultation and opinion has been given by one qualified and licensed to practice medicine and so recorded in the records of the death, providing such information affords clear grounds to establish the correct medical cause of death within accepted medical practice and within the requirements for accuracy prescribed by the Division of Vital Statistics of the State Department of Health Services. The coroner shall not finally exclude crime, suicide, or accident as a cause of death because of lack of evidence.

(Amended by Stats. 1979, Ch. 373.)

27491.55.
  

In any case where a coroner is required to inquire into a death pursuant to Section 27491, the coroner may delegate his or her jurisdiction over the death to an agency of another county or the federal government when all of the following conditions have been met:

(a) The other agency has either requested the delegation of jurisdiction, or has agreed to take jurisdiction at the request of the coroner.

(b) The other agency has the authority to perform the functions being delegated.

(c) When both the coroner and the other agency have a jurisdictional interest or involvement in the death.

(Added by Stats. 1988, Ch. 1139, Sec. 1.)

27491.6.
  

The coroner may also, in his discretion, if the circumstances warrant, hold an inquest, and he shall hold an inquest if requested to do so by the Attorney General, the district attorney, sheriff, city prosecutor, city attorney, or a chief of police of a city in the county in which such coroner has jurisdiction. Such inquest shall be held with or without a jury, at the coroner’s discretion and shall be open to the public.

(Amended by Stats. 1969, Ch. 1220.)

27491.7.
  

The coroner, his authorized deputy, or a hearing officer shall conduct the inquest.

(Added by Stats. 1969, Ch. 1220.)

27491.8.
  

(a) When the coroner seeks a confidential communication of a deceased person that is privileged under Article 6 (commencing with Section 990) or Article 7 (commencing with Section 1010) of Chapter 4 of Division 8 of the Evidence Code, by means of a subpoena or subpoena duces tecum, for the purpose of inquiry into, and determination of, the circumstances, manner, and cause of death as set forth in Section 27491, or for the sole purpose of being introduced as evidence at a coroner’s inquest proceeding, the coroner shall provide notice to the decedent’s personal representative personally or at his or her last known address, not less than 15 days prior to the date the records are to be delivered to the presiding judge of the superior court. The notice shall inform the personal representative that he or she may provide to the court a written objection to the disclosure or to any part thereof, on or before the date for delivery thereof to the court. The custodian shall deliver the records to the presiding judge of the superior court in a confidential manner. The presiding judge shall examine the records in camera. If there is good cause, the presiding judge shall direct the custodian to disclose to the coroner those portions of the records which the judge determines are relevant to the coroner’s inquiry or inquest.

(b) A communication made available to the coroner pursuant to this section is confidential, except insofar as it is introduced into evidence at a coroner’s inquest proceeding, and shall not be distributed or made available to any other person, agency, firm, or corporation.

(c) This communication shall not be admissible as former testimony pursuant to Article 9 (commencing with Section 1290) of Chapter 2 of Division 10 of the Evidence Code.

(d) After the investigation or inquest has terminated, the court shall order the records thereof to be sealed as necessary to protect the confidentiality of the decedent’s medical or mental health information.

(e) This section shall become operative on January 1, 2003.

(Repealed (in Sec. 3) and added by Stats. 2000, Ch. 1068, Sec. 4. Effective January 1, 2001. Section operative January 1, 2003, by its own provisions.)

27492.
  

The coroner shall summon, or cause to be summoned by any sheriff or policeman, not less than nine nor more than 15 persons, qualified by law to serve as jurors, to appear before him forthwith, either at the place where the body of the deceased is or at some other convenient place within the county designated by him, or at the request of the district attorney, to inquire into the cause of the death.

(Amended by Stats. 1996, Ch. 872, Sec. 57. Effective January 1, 1997.)

27493.
  

No person summoned is exempt from jury duty except at the discretion of the coroner. No person shall be summoned as juror who is related to the decedent or is charged with or suspected of the killing, nor shall anyone be summoned who is known to be prejudiced for or against him. No person selected or summoned to appear as a juror is subject to be challenged by any party.

(Added by Stats. 1947, Ch. 424.)

27497.
  

After the jury has been sworn and charged by the coroner it may, if deemed necessary and so ordered by him, go with him to view and examine the body of the deceased person. On order of the coroner the jury shall retire to any convenient place specified by him to hear the testimony of witnesses and deliberate upon its verdict.

(Added by Stats. 1947, Ch. 424.)

27498.
  

(a) The coroner may issue subpoenas for witnesses, returnable forthwith or at such time and place as the coroner appoints, which may be served by any competent person. The coroner may also require any such witness to bring with him or her any books, records, documents, or other things under the control of the witness which, in the opinion of the coroner, are necessary to the conduct of the inquest and as a further aid in determining the circumstances, manner, and cause of death of the decedent. To enforce the provisions of this section, the coroner may issue subpoenas duces tecum in accordance with Section 1985 of the Code of Civil Procedure. In case of failure of a witness to attend, and in the case of a subpoena duces tecum, for the failure to produce the items set forth therein, the coroner, or the coroner’s authorized deputy, issuing the subpoena upon proof of service thereof, and the failure of the witness, may certify the facts to the superior court in the county where the proceedings are held. The court shall thereupon issue an order directing the person to appear before the court and show cause why he or she should not be ordered to comply. The order and a copy of the certified statement shall be served on the person. Thereafter the court shall have jursidiction of the matter. The same proceedings shall be had, the same penalties may be imposed and the person charged may purge himself or herself of the contempt in the same way as in the case of a person who has committed a contempt in the trial of a civil action before a superior court. The items set forth on the subpoena duces tecum shall not be made public unless an inquest is held.

(b) Any books, records, documents, or other things under the control of a law enforcement agency, subpoenaed pursuant to subdivision (a), shall not themselves be made a part of the record in any coroner’s inquest without the written consent of the law enforcement agency, when such inquest pertains to a death caused by a police officer.

(Amended by Stats. 1978, Ch. 1198.)

27499.
  

The coroner shall summon and examine as witnesses every person who in his opinion or that of any of the jury has any knowledge of the facts. He may summon a surgeon or physician to inspect the body or hold a post mortem examination or a chemist to make an analysis of the stomach or the tissues of the deceased and give a professional opinion as to the cause of the death.

(Added by Stats. 1947, Ch. 424.)

27499.1.
  

Where the names and addresses of possible witnesses have been furnished to the coroner by the next of kin of the deceased, an attorney for the next of kin, or the district attorney, the coroner shall, if it reasonably appears to him that the persons named are in fact necessary witnesses, subpoena such persons to appear at the inquest hearing.

(Added by Stats. 1969, Ch. 1220.)

27500.
  

Any witness served with a subpena who wilfully and without reasonable excuse fails to attend and testify is guilty of a misdemeanor.

(Added by Stats. 1947, Ch. 424.)

27501.
  

The coroner may adjourn the inquest from time to time as may be necessary.

(Added by Stats. 1947, Ch. 424.)

27502.
  

The coroner shall cause the testimony given by any witness to be reduced to writing or recorded either in shorthand or by a mechanical recording device. It may, if recorded, at his discretion, be transcribed into typewriting by him or under his direction. He may employ a clerk or stenographer for the purpose. When the testimony is taken down by a stenographer, his duly certified transcription thereof constitutes the deposition of the witness. The compensation of the clerk or stenographer shall be the same as that allowed to stenographers in the superior court of the county and is a legal charge against the county.

(Amended by Stats. 1947, Ch. 575.)

27502.2.
  

The inquest verdict or decision shall be inadmissible as evidence in any civil or criminal proceeding.

(Added by Stats. 1969, Ch. 1220.)

27503.
  

The transcript of the testimony of the witnesses examined in the coroner’s inquest shall be completed and filed within 10 days following the inquest with either the coroner’s office or the county clerk as determined by the board of supervisors.

(Amended by Stats. 1971, Ch. 1175.)

27504.
  

After hearing the testimony, the jury shall render its verdict and certify it by an inquisition in writing signed by the members of the jury, or the coroner shall render his decision if the inquest is by the coroner sitting without a jury, setting forth the name of the deceased, the time and place of death, the medical cause of death and whether the death was by (1) natural causes, (2) suicide, (3) accident, or (4) the hands of another person other than by accident. Such findings shall not include nor shall they make any reference to civil or criminal responsibility on the part of the deceased or any other person.

(Amended by Stats. 1971, Ch. 1573.)

27504.1.
  

If the findings are that the deceased met his or her death at the hands of another, the coroner shall, in addition to filing the report in his or her office or with the county clerk, as determined by the board of supervisors pursuant to Section 27503, transmit his or her written findings to the district attorney, the police agency wherein the dead body was recovered, and any other police agency requesting copies of the findings.

The findings and conclusions provided for in this article shall be sufficient to satisfy the cause of death information required in death certificates under Section 102875 of the Health and Safety Code.

(Amended by Stats. 2002, Ch. 221, Sec. 36. Effective January 1, 2003.)

27511.
  

There shall be but one inquest upon a body, unless that taken is set aside by the court, and there shall be but one inquest held upon several bodies of persons who were killed by the same cause and died at the same time.

(Added by Stats. 1947, Ch. 424.)

27512.
  

If it appears that an error in the identity of the body has been made by the jury, the coroner may call another inquest without reference to the court, and a memorandum of the error shall be entered upon the erroneous inquisition.

(Added by Stats. 1947, Ch. 424.)

GOVGovernment Code - GOV2.