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California Government Code Section 27491

Legal Research Home > California Laws > Government Code > California Government Code Section 27491

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 (e) 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.
   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.
   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.
   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.
   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.

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Last modified: March 17, 2014