§ 45-16-25. Coroner's or county medical examiner's duties after notice of suspicious or unusual death; embalmment; inventory and disposition of deceased's property; use of deceased's property for evidence; autopsy required.

CODE OF GEORGIA

Title 45. PUBLIC OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES

Chapter 16. CORONERS

Article 2. DEATH INVESTIGATIONS

Current through 2019 Chapter 321

§ 45-16-25. Coroner's or county medical examiner's duties after notice of suspicious or unusual death; embalmment; inventory and disposition of deceased's property; use of deceased's property for evidence; autopsy required

(a)
(1) Upon receipt of the notice required by Code Section 45-16-24, the coroner or county medical examiner shall immediately take charge of the body. If a registered professional nurse, nurse practitioner, advanced practice registered nurse, or physician assistant authorized to make a pronouncement of death under Code Section 31-10-16 or a qualified physician is not available, a coroner, deputy coroner, or medical examiner's investigator may make a pronouncement of death at the investigation scene if, and only if, one or more of the following conditions is met:
(A) The body is in a state of rigor mortis with lividity present;
(B) The body is in a state of decomposition evidenced by a component of putrefaction;
(C) The body is skeletonized; or
(D) Death has been established by qualified emergency medical services personnel.
(2) It shall be the duty of a coroner notified as required by Code Section 45-16-24 to summon a medical examiner and proper peace officer. It shall be the duty of a county medical examiner so notified to summon a proper peace officer. When present at the scene of death, the peace officer shall have jurisdiction over the scene of death. The medical examiner or coroner and the peace officer shall together make inquiries regarding the cause, manner, and circumstances of death. If either the peace officer or medical examiner is not present at the scene of death, then whichever of the two officers is present shall have jurisdiction over the scene of death. If neither the peace officer nor the medical examiner is present at the scene of death in any county in which the office of coroner has not been replaced by a county medical examiner, the coroner shall assume the responsibility of such officers at the scene of death and shall have the body transported to a local medical examiner who shall conduct a medical examiner's inquiry. The medical examiner, at any time, to facilitate examination, when he or she deems it necessary, may have the body embalmed or retain it for refrigeration for preservation or to avoid the threat of infectious disease prior to release of the body to the next of kin. Such expense of embalming shall be paid by the county of the coroner's or medical examiner's jurisdiction.
(b) When positive identification of dead bodies has not been established conclusively through personal visual examination of the remains by persons well acquainted with the decedent in life or by comparison of fingerprints or footprints or by identification of unique physical characteristics, such as prosthetic appliances, or by comparison of skeletal X-rays, including previous fractures, or by amputations, the medical examiner must either chart or X-ray the decedent's dentition or call upon a licensed dentist of the medical examiner's choosing to carry out a dental examination of the body. This may be accomplished either by examination in situ or by removal of the jaws with teeth to the dentist's office. The dentist shall chart the deceased's dentition and make two copies, one of which shall be filed with the medical examiner's inquiry report to the division and the other with the Georgia Crime Information Center of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The dentist may, at his or her discretion, make such X-rays of the mouth as he or she deems necessary. The dentist shall be paid a fee as determined in accordance with Code Section 35-3-151. These fees shall be paid by the county of the coroner's or local medical examiner's jurisdiction.
(c) The coroner or county medical examiner shall, in the absence of the next of kin of the deceased person, take possession of all property of value found on such person, make an exact inventory thereof on his or her report, and surrender the same to the person entitled to its custody or possession. In no circumstance shall any property of value found on or belonging to the deceased be converted to the personal use of the coroner or county medical examiner. The coroner, medical examiner, or peace officer shall take possession of any objects, anatomical specimens, or articles which, in his or her opinion, may be helpful in establishing the cause of death, manner of death, or identification of the deceased; and in cooperation with a forensic laboratory he or she may make such tests and examinations of said objects, specimens, or articles as may be necessary or useful in determining the cause of death, manner of death, or the identity of the deceased. At his or her discretion, the medical examiner or coroner may dispose of such objects, specimens, or articles when the medical examiner's or coroner's need for their retention has ended, provided that any property of value shall be returned to the next of kin of the deceased when no longer needed in the investigation or for evidence in a prosecution. Any coroner who converts property of a deceased to his or her personal use shall be guilty of a violation of Code Section 16-8-4 and upon conviction shall be punished as provided in paragraph (3) of subsection (a) of Code Section 16-8-12. In the event that a criminal prosecution arises, all such objects and articles together with reports of any examinations made upon them shall be retained in the custody of the investigating agency or the forensic laboratory which conducted the examination until their production as evidence is required by the prosecuting officer or upon written order of the peace officer in charge or court having proper jurisdiction.
(d) The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is authorized to perform a post mortem examination and autopsy on a person whose death occurs within a state owned or leased building or on the curtilage of such building. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation shall have jurisdiction relating to the investigation of such a death, and this authority and jurisdiction shall supersede any other authority or jurisdiction provided for by this article relating to a post mortem examination or autopsy.

Cite as OCGA § 45-16-25

History. Amended by 2017 Ga. Laws 236, §4, eff. 7/1/2017.

Amended by 2014 Ga. Laws 623, §1, eff. 4/24/2014.

Amended by 2010 Ga. Laws 503, §1, eff. 7/1/2010.

Amended by 2009 Ga. Laws 103, §1, eff. 7/1/2009.