North Dakota

Coroner/Medical Examiner Laws

Medicolegal Death Investigation System

Is medical death investigation system centralized, county-based, or district-based?
County-based. N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 11-10-02.

If centralized, in which department or agency is the system housed?
Not applicable.

Does the state system have a coroner, medical examiner, or coroners and medical examiners?
Coroner, but [i]n counties adopting any form of county managership, the office of coroner shall be abolished. The functions of that 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.

“In practice” notes
None.

Is there a state medical examiner?
Yes. N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 23-01-05.4.

If so, what is the state medical examiner’s role?
1. Exercise all authority conferred upon the coroner under chapter 11-19.1 and any other law;

2. Consult with local coroners on the performance of their duties as coroners;

3. Conduct investigations into the cause of death of and perform autopsies on any deceased human body whenever requested to do so by the acting local county coroner or the local state’s attorney;

4. Provide training and educational materials to local county coroners, law enforcement, and any other person the state forensic examiner deems necessary;

5. Maintain complete records of the cause, manner, and mode of death necessary for accurate health statistics and for public health purposes; and

6. Perform other duties assigned by the state health officer.

N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 23-01-05.4.

The state forensic examiner may order an autopsy and exercise all powers and authority bestowed upon the office of the coroner and, at any time, may assume jurisdiction over a deceased human body. Whenever requested to do so by the local coroner, acting coroner, or the local state’s attorney, the state forensic examiner or the examiner’s designee shall assume jurisdiction over a deceased human body for purposes of investigating the cause of death, the manner of death, and the mode in which the death occurred. N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 11-19.1-18.

The coroner or any individual acting as a coroner shall actively consult with the state forensic examiner’s office in every death involving an inmate of a state, county, or city penal institution; death involving a child under the age of one when in apparent good health; and death that the coroner or acting coroner believes may have resulted from an accident, a suicide, or a homicide, under suspicious circumstances, or as a result of child abuse or neglect. N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 11-19.1-20.

In what department or agency is the state medical examiner’s office located?
Department of Health. N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 23-01-05.4.

Are there deputies?
The coroner may appoint assistant or deputy coroners subject to the qualifications, training, and continuing education requirements determined by the state forensic examiner. N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 11-19.1-04.

If so, what are the deputies’ roles?
Cannot determine.

What are the qualifications for deputies?
Cannot determine.

Subject to the qualifications, training, and continuing education requirements determined by the state forensic examiner. N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 11-19.1-04.

Qualifications, Term of Office, and Training

Is the coroner or medical examiner position elected?
No. N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 11-19.1-03.

If so, how many years is the term of office?
Not applicable.

What are the qualifications specified by law?
The state forensic examiner must be a physician who is board-certified or board-eligible in forensic pathology, who is licensed to practice in this state, and who is in good standing in the profession. N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 23-01-05.4.

1. Subject to the qualifications, training, and continuing education requirements determined by the state forensic examiner, the following individuals are eligible to serve as coroner:

a. A physician licensed under chapter 43-17;

b. An advanced practice registered nurse or registered nurse licensed under chapter 43-12.1;

c. A physician assistant licensed under chapter 43-17; and

d. Any other individual determined by the state forensic examiner to be qualified to serve as coroner.

N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 11-19.1-04.

Investigations/Autopsies

What types of deaths are required to be investigated?
Whenever requested to do so by the local coroner, acting coroner, or the local state’s attorney, the state forensic examiner or the examiner’s designee shall assume jurisdiction over a deceased human body for purposes of investigating the cause of death, the manner of death, and the mode in which the death occurred. N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 11-19.1-18.

The coroner or any individual acting as a coroner shall actively consult with the state forensic examiner’s office in every death involving an inmate of a state, county, or city penal institution; death involving a child under the age of one when in apparent good health; and death that the coroner or acting coroner believes may have resulted from an accident, a suicide, or a homicide, under suspicious circumstances, or as a result of child abuse or neglect. N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 11-19.1-20.

[A]n individual died as a result of criminal or violent means, died suddenly when in apparent good health in a suspicious or unusual manner, or died as the result of any other reportable circumstance . . . N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 11-19.1-07.

“Reportable circumstances” includes one or more of the following factors:

a. Obvious or suspected homicidal, suicidal, or accidental injury;

b. Firearm injury;

c. Severe, unexplained injury;

d. Occupant or pedestrian motor vehicle injury;

e. An injury to a minor;

f. Fire, chemical, electrical, or radiation;

g. Starvation;

h. Unidentified or skeletonized human remains;

i. Drowning;

j. Suffocation, smothering, or strangulation;

k. Poisoning or illegal drug use;

l. Prior child abuse or neglect assessment concerns;

m. Open child protection service case on the victim;

n. Victim is in the custody of the department of human services, county social services, the department of corrections and rehabilitation or other correctional facility, or law enforcement;

o. Unexplained death or death in an undetermined manner;

p. Suspected sexual assault; or

q. Any other suspicious factor.

N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 11-19.1-01.

What types of deaths are required to be autopsied?
1. The coroner or the coroner’s medical deputy, if the coroner deems it necessary, may take custody of the deceased human body for the purpose of autopsy. When the coroner does not deem an autopsy necessary, the sheriff or state’s attorney may direct an autopsy be performed.

2. The autopsy must be performed by the state forensic examiner or by the state forensic examiner’s authorized pathologist at a facility approved by the state forensic examiner.

3. Upon the death of a minor whose cause of death is suspected by the minor’s parent or guardian or the coroner or the coroner’s medical deputy to have been the sudden infant death syndrome, the coroner or the coroner’s medical deputy, after consultation with the parent or guardian, shall take custody of the body and shall arrange for the performance of the autopsy by the state forensic examiner or a pathologist designated by the state forensic examiner, unless the county coroner, sheriff, state’s attorney, and the parent or guardian all agree that an autopsy is unnecessary.

N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 11-19.1-11.

The state forensic examiner may order an autopsy and exercise all powers and authority bestowed upon the office of the coroner and, at any time, may assume jurisdiction over a deceased human body. N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 11-19.1-18.

Does the state require that pathologists perform the autopsies?
Yes. The autopsy must be performed by the state forensic examiner or by the state forensic examiner’s authorized pathologist . . . N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 11-19.1-11.

Disclaimer: Information available on this website that was not developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not necessarily represent any CDC policy, position, or endorsement of that information or of its sources. The information contained on this website is not legal advice; if you have questions about a specific law or its application you should consult your legal counsel.

Page last reviewed: January 15, 2015