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Legal Responsibilities

The following selected sections of the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) are listed below so that the reporting institution or individual may fully understand that providing information to the Office of the Coroner is merely to comply with the law and that failure to do so would place them in jeopardy of prosecution.

SECTIONS 313.09

The Coroner shall keep a complete record of and shall file in the cause of death on the death certificate, in all cases coming under his jurisdiction. All records shall be kept in the office of the coroner, but, if no such office is maintained, then such records shall be kept in the office of the clerk of the court of common pleas. Such records shall be properly indexed, and shall state the name, if known, of every deceased person as described in Section 313.12 of the Revised Code, the place where the body was found, date of death, cause of death, and all other available information. The report of the coroner and the detailed findings of the autopsy shall be attached to the report in each case. The coroner shall promptly deliver, to the prosecuting attorney of the county in which such death occurred, copies of all necessary records relating to every death in which, in judgment of the coroner or prosecuting attorney, further investigation is advisable. The sheriff of the county, or marshal of the village in which the death occurred may be requested to furnish more information or make further investigations when requested by the coroner or his deputy. The prosecuting attorney may obtain copies of records and such other information as is necessary from the office of the coroner. All records of the coroner are the property of the county.

SECTION 313.11

 (A) No person, without an order from the coroner, any deputy coroner, or an investigator or other person designated by the coroner as having authority to issue an order under this section, shall purposely remove or disturb the body of any person who has died in the manner described in section 313.12 of the Revised Code, or purposely and without such an order disturb the clothing or any article upon or near such a body or any of the possessions that the coroner has a duty to store under section 313.14 of the Revised Code.

(B) It is an affirmative defense to a charge under this section that the offender attempted in good faith to rescue or administer life-preserving assistance to the deceased person, even though it is established he was dead at the time of the attempted rescue or assistance.

(C) Whoever violates this section is guilty of unlawfully disturbing a body, a misdemeanor of the fourth degree.

Who reports the death to the Coroner's Office?

SECTION 313.12

When any person dies as a result of criminal or other violent means, by casualty, by suicide, or in any suspicious or unusual manner, or when any person, including a child under two years of age, dies suddenly when in apparent good health, the physician called in attendance, or any member of an ambulance service, emergency squad, or law enforcement agency who obtains knowledge thereof arising from his duties, shall immediately notify the office of the coroner of the known facts concerning the time, place, manner, and circumstances of the death, and any other information which is required pursuant to sections 313.01 to 313.22 of the Revised Code. In such cases, if a request is made for cremation, the funeral director called in attendance shall immediately notify the coroner.

OAG 73-123 Under 313.11 and 313.12, the Coroner does not have jurisdiction over the body of a deceased person unless the death has occurred "as a result of criminal or other violent means, or by suicide, or suddenly when in apparent health, or in any suspicious or unusual manner," and when none of the above circumstances are present, the coroner has jurisdiction only if the deceased is known, or if those who are entitle to custody of the body do not claim it.

OAG 39-727 Coroner is not required to sign death certificate where death is not supposed to have been caused by unlawful or suspicious means.

OAG 47-1723 In case of death of any person in a hospital, resulting from accident, it is the duty of the physician in charge and of any other person having knowledge of fact, immediately to notify coroner of death, and of time, place, manner and circumstances thereof.

OAG 37-163 It is obligatory upon the coroner at the time of the original call and before viewing the body, to be informed that death is supposed to have been caused by unlawful or suspicious means.

What authority does the Coroner have in regard to investigation into the circumstances of the death?

SECTION 313.13

(A) The coroner, any deputy coroner, an investigator appointed pursuant to section 313.05 of the Revised Code, or any other person the coroner designates as having the authority to act under this section may go to the dead body and take charge of it. Whether and when an autopsy is performed shall be determined under sections 313.121 [313.12.1] and 313.131 [313.13.1] of the Revised Code. If an autopsy is performed by the coroner, deputy coroner, or pathologists, a detailed description of the observations written during the progress of such autopsy, or as soon after such autopsy as reasonably possible, and the conclusions drawn from the observations shall be filed in the office of the coroner.

If he takes charge of and decides to perform, or performs, an autopsy on a dead body under section 313.121 [313.12.1] or 313.131 [313.13.1] of the Revised Code, the coroner, or in his absence, any deputy coroner, under division (E) of section 2108.02 of the Revised Code, may waive his paramount right to any donated part of the dead body.

(B) If the office of the coroner is notified that a person who was the operator of a motor vehicle that was involved in an accident or crash was killed in the accident or crash or died as a result of injuries suffered in it, the coroner, deputy coroner, or pathologist shall go to the dead body and take charge of it and administer a chemical test to the blood of the deceased person to determine the alcohol, drug, or alcohol and drug content of the blood. This division does not authorize the coroner, deputy coroner, or pathologist to perform an autopsy, and does not affect and shall not be construed as affecting the provisions of section 313.131 [313.13.1] of the Revised Code that govern the determination of whether and when an autopsy is to be performed.

SECTION 313.17

 The coroner or deputy coroner may issue subpoenas for such witnesses as are necessary, administer to such witnesses the usual oath, and proceed to inquire how the deceased came to his death, whether by violence to self or from any other persons, by whom, whether as principals or accessories before or after the fact, and all circumstances relating thereto. The testimony of such witnesses shall be reduced to writing and subscribed to by them, and with the findings and recognizance's mentioned in this section, shall be kept on file in the coroner's office, unless the county fails to provide such an office, in which event all such records, findings and recognizance's shall be kept on file in the office of the clerk of the court of common pleas. The coroner may cause such witnesses to enter into recognizance, in such sum as is proper, for their appearance to give testimony concerning the matter. He may require any such witnesses to give security for their attendance, and, if any of them fails to comply with his requirements he shall commit such person to the county jail until discharged by due course of law. In case of the failure of any person to comply with such subpoena, or on the refusal of a witness to testify to any matter regarding which he may lawfully be interrogated, the probate judge, or a judge of the court of common pleas, on application of the coroner, shall compel obedience to such subpoena by attachment proceedings as for contempt. A report shall be made from the personal observation by the coroner or his deputy of the corpse, from the statements of relatives or other persons having any knowledge of the facts, and from such other sources of information as are available, or from the autopsy.