What is a death investigation?

Published 05/12/2008 01:02 PM   |    Updated 05/12/2008 01:02 PM

What is a death investigation?

What appears to be a natural death may be criminal; an apparent suicide may actually be an accidental death; and a natural death may reveal serious implications for survivors. Because of criminal, civil and public health implications, your coroner must treat every death carefully.

Upon first learning that a person in the county has died from violence, casualty, unusual circumstances, suspicious activity or while in apparently good health, the coroner will notify a local law enforcement agency. Together, they investigate the scene. Often, the coroner must restrict access to the death scene in order to properly carry out the investigation. Indiana's county coroners do not need the family's permission to conduct an investigation, but do hasten to complete their investigations so that the family may grieve in peace.


Proper documentation of the death scene is crucial to the coroner's determination. Knowingly failing to notify the coroner or a law enforcement agency in the case of a death that qualifies as a coroner's investigation is a Class B infraction punishable by a fine up to $1,000 plus court costs. Moving a body under these conditions is a Class D felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to three years and a fine of up to $10,000.

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