- General Information
Information from the Coroner
Autopsy, Inquest, Records
If upon investigation, the Coroner is unable to determine the cause and manner of death, he then
performs an autopsy on the body. If the cause of death is undetermined and the manner of death following the autopsy, he may conduct an inquest upon a view of the body, as provided by law. At the inquest, the coroner's duty shall be to ascertain the cause of death, to determine whether any person other than the deceased was criminally responsible therefore by act of neglect, and if so, the identity of the person, and to examine any further evidence and
witnesses regarding the cause of death. All inquest proceedings is recorded.
Bodies not to be Moved
In all cases where the Coroner has jurisdiction to investigate the facts and circumstances of death, the body and its surroundings shall be left untouched until the Coroner (or his appointed
deputy(ies)) has had a view thereof or until he shall otherwise direct or authorize, except as may be otherwise provided by law, or as circumstances may require. Bodies upon a public thoroughfare or in other places may be removed so much as is necessary for precaution against traffic accidents or other serious consequences which might reasonably be anticipated if they were left intact.
Sudden Deaths Defined
The Coroner regards any death as sudden if it occurs without prior medical attendance by a person who may lawfully execute a certificate of death in the County, or if within 24 hours of death, the decedent was discharged from such medical attendance or a change of such medical attendance had occurred, or if any such medical attendance began with 24 hours of death and the medical attendant refuses or is unable to certify the cause of death. Medical attendance includes hospitalization.
Cooperation with District Attorney
In the exercise of his duties, the Coroner shall (so far as may be practicable), consult and advise with the district attorney. The District Attorney shall act as counsel to the Coroner in matters relating to inquests.
Power of Subpoena and Attachment
The Coroner has the power to issue subpoenas to obtain the attendance of any person who it may be necessary to examine as a witness at any inquest, and to compel attendance by attachment in like manner and to the same extent as any court of common pleas of this Commonwealth may or can do in cases pending before them, and also to compel in like manner the production of all papers and other things relative to such inquest. Such subpoena and attachment shall be served and executed by the sheriff or by the coroner himself or his deputy, as the case may require.
Justices of the Peace not Affected
The provisions of subdivision shall not be construed to affect any provisions of law requiring
or authorizing justices of the peace in certain cases to act in place of the coroner.
Release of Coroner's Jurisdiction
Whenever the Coroner assumes jurisdiction of a body pursuant to the provisions of this subdivision or of any other law, the body shall not be released or removed from his jurisdiction except upon his directions and consent, in accordance with law.
Power to Administer Oaths
The Coroner has the power to administer oaths and affirmations to all persons brought or appearing before him, and any person swearing or affirming falsely on such examination are guilty of per jury.
Certificate of Cause of Death
The Coroner issues a certificate of cause of death referred to him by the local registrar of vital
statistics, pursuant to the provisions of the act known as the "Vital Statistics Law of 1953", and in all other cases of which he has jurisdiction, if no person duly authorized by the said act certifies cause of death.
Inquests and Juries
The Coroner may at his discretion summon a jury and six to be selected from the jury panels of the court of common pleas. -- The function of such jury shall be to determine the manner of death and whether any criminal act or neglect of persons known or unknown caused such death. Such a jury shall be paid as provided by law as if they were serving the Court of Common Pleas.
Commitment to County Prison
If any person appearing before the coroner for examination refuses to take oath or affirmation, or
after having been sworn or affirmed refuses to make answer to such questions asked him by the coroner touching the matters in the inquest, such persons so refusing could be committed by the Coroner to the county jail by warrant, under his hand and seal, directed to the sheriff or any constable of the county, setting forth particularly the causes of such commitment, until he shall submit to be sworn or affirmed or to make answers to such questions or be otherwise legally discharged.
Inquests not Public
The Coroner, in his discretion, admit or exclude members of the public from any inquest or part
thereof, and admit or exclude any person interested or suspected from which inquest or any
part thereof, but this provision shall not apply to representatives of the press. No person excluded may appear by attorney, but any person required to attend may have benefit of counsel at such attendance.
BY NOW YOU MUST REALIZE THERE IS MUCH MORE TO THE CORONER'S OFFICE THAN ONCE THOUGHT! IT TAKES MANY HOURS TO INVESTIGATE, AUTOPSY IF NEEDED, COMPLETE WRITTEN DOCUMENTATION, MAKE PROPER NOTIFICATIONS, INTERFACE WITH MANY AGENCIES AND MUCH MORE TO COMPLETE A THOROUGH AND TIMELY MEDICOLEGAL DEATH INVESTIGATION FOR THE FAMILIES WE SERVE.
SECTION 9525.3. ELECTED CORONERS TO TAKE COURSE OF INSTRUCTION AND PASS EXAMINATION
(a) Successful examination. - After the effective date of this act, no person elected for the first time to the office of coroner in this Commonwealth shall be eligible to take the oath of office unless he has attended the course of instruction and successfully passed the examination given at the conclusion thereof unless, for just cause, the board postpones his attendance and examination. In the event the person so elected fails in either of these respects without being excused, there shall be deemed to be a vacancy in the office and it shall be filled in accordance with law. No person having served as Coroner in Pennsylvania prior to the effective date of this act shall be required to attend instructions or pass this examination if reelected or appointed subsequent to the effective date of this act. This provision shall also apply to chief deputies and full-time deputies who have been appointed prior to the effective date of this act. 1988, March 2, P.L. 108, No. 22, Sec. 3.
Did you know...
If the elected Coroner does not pass the exam, the office may be declared vacant.
A replacement Coroner may be appointed by the Governor.