Death Investigation Systems

The resources on this page describe state death investigation systems, which typically consist of either a coroner system, a medical examiner system, or a combination of the two.

  • Centralized medical examiner system: 16 states and DC
  • County- or district-based medical examiner system: 6 states
  • County-based system with a mixture of coroner and medical examiner office: 14 states
  • County-, district-, or parish-based coroner system: 14 states
  • State medical examiner: 25 states

Death Investigation Systems Notes

Alabama has passed statutes allowing at least three counties, Bibb (Ala. Code § 45-4-60), Escambia (Ala. Code § 45-27-60), and Jefferson (1979 Ala. Acts 1979-454 (H.B. 847)) to abolish the office of coroner and create the office of medical examiner.

Board of supervisors by ordinance may consolidate the duties of sheriff, coroner, and public administrator. Cal. Gov’t Code § 24304.1.

In the city/county of Denver, the Office of the Medical Examiner is led by a chief medical examiner/coroner, who is appointed by the manager of the Department of Environmental Health (Denver, Colo., Charter tit. I, § 2.12.2).

In municipalities with a population of 5,000 or fewer, a person may simultaneously hold the office of coroner and the office of mayor. Ga. Code Ann. § 45-16-1.

The chief of police or his authorized subordinate of the counties of Hawaii, Maui, and Kauai, and the medical examiner of the city and county of Honolulu, shall, ex officio, be the coroner for his respective county. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 841-1.

Parish-based. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13:5701.

Upon successful completion of the death investigation training school, a coroner who is a physician is designated the chief medical examiner for the county, while a coroner who is a non-physician is designated the chief medical examiner investigator. Miss. Code. Ann. § 41-61-57; Miss. Code. Ann. § 19-21-105.

County attorney shall perform all of the duties enjoined by law upon the county coroner and the county attorney shall be the ex officio county coroner. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 23-1210.

North Carolina
While most North Carolina counties have appointed medical examiners, an undetermined number of counties still elect coroners.

North Dakota
The functions of the coroner’s office shall be performed by the county manager in counties adopting a short form of county managership, and in counties adopting a county manager form of government, by the sheriff. If there is a conflict or inconsistency between the functions of the coroner and the sheriff, the duties of the coroner shall be performed by the state’s attorney. N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 11-09-27.

Through local ordinance, Cuyahoga County (Cuyahoga County, Ohio Charter art. V, § 5.03) and Summit County (Summit County, Ohio Charter art. IV, § 4.03) have abolished the office of coroner and created the office of medical examiner.

Although it is permitted by state statute, no Tennessee counties appear to maintain the elected office of coroner.

Justices of the peace perform coroner duties. Tex. Crim. Proc. Code Ann. art. 49.04

[I]n each county with a population of less than forty thousand no coroner shall be elected and the prosecuting attorney shall be ex officio coroner. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 36.16.030.

West Virginia  
In West Virginia, the office of medical examiner may be held by nonphysicians. W. Va. Code R. § 64-84-3.

The offices of coroner and surveyor in counties having a population of 500,000 or more are abolished. Counties not having a population of 500,000 shall have the option of retaining the elective office of coroner or instituting a medical examiner system. Two or more counties may institute a joint medical examiner system. Wis. Const. art. VI, § 4.