Your Loved One Has Died
Q. Why is the Coroner involved in this death? Are all deaths in Sacramento County reported to the Coroner's Office?
A. California Law requires the Coroner to inquire into and determine the circumstances, manner, and cause of sudden deaths where the attending physician is unable to determine the cause of death or the death is the result of homicide, suicide, accidental or undetermined means. It also includes deaths where the decedent has not been seen by their physician within 20 days preceding the death. All deaths in Sacramento County are not reported to the Coroner’s Office. Generally, natural deaths occurring in a hospital or medical facility and/or under a hospice physician’s care are not coroner cases which require a coroner death investigation.
Q. Can I tour the morgue and view an autopsy?
A. Generally tours and viewing of autopsies are not permitted due to decedent medical confidentiality and health and safety issues.
Q. Can a friend make arrangements for the disposition of a decedent if the next-of-kin is unwilling or unable to act?
A. A friend can only make arrangements for a decedent if the next -of-kin gives written authorization for the friend to act.
Your Loved One Has Died
Q. When will I know the cause of death?
A. If established after a preliminary Coroner’s investigation, forensic examination of the decedent’s body and review of medical records, the cause of death will be available to the relatives within 24 to 48 hours after the death is reported to the Coroner’s Office. If further testing and investigation is required, it could take several months before a cause of death is available. The death certificate will show “Pending” in the cause of death section.
Q. When will the body be released and how long do I have to make arrangements and have my loved one picked-up from the Coroner’s Office?
A. Forensic examinations are usually performed within 24 to 48 hours after the death is reported. Therefore, the deceased can be removed from the Coroner’s Office immediately after the examination unless the case is a homicide. Homicides are held 24 hours after the autopsy before they are released. The next-of-kin are allowed 72 hours following notification of death to make arrangements to have their loved one picked-up to avoid storage charges. Storage and release fees and office hours…
Q. May I come to the Coroner’s Office to view the body?
A. Viewing is not allowed at the Coroner’s Office. Forensic examinations are generally completed within 24 to 48 hours and most bodies are released immediately after the examination. Relatives are advised to make arrangement to view the body at the mortuary.
Q. How long will it take to get a copy of the Coroner’s Report and how can I get a copy?
A. Coroner case closures are significantly delayed because of case load, case specific investigatory issues and staffing reductions. Therefore, we cannot state a specific time frame for case closure. A copy request can be made at anytime for a case report and it will remain on file until the case is closed. If you have not received your report after several months, feel free to contact the Coroner’s Office (916-874-9320) to check the status of your case. One copy of the Coroner’s Report is available to the next-of-kin at no charge. Otherwise, copies of the Coroner’s Report or Autopsy Report are subject to collection of an established fee. Coroner's Report fees and office hours…
To obtain the first copy, please telephone the Coroner’s Office at (916) 874-9320 between 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. To order a copy of any other report, please forward a check/money order with a written request including the number of copies, the decedent’s name, date of death, and case number if you have it to:
Sacramento County Coroner’s Office
4800 Broadway #100
Sacramento, CA 95820
Q. What if I can’t afford to make burial or cremation arrangements?
A. If the next-of-kin can not afford to make arrangements for burial or cremation of their loved one, they can contact the Sacramento Coroner’s Office at 916-874-9320 to apply for the Indigent Cremation program.
Decedents that have no known family will be cremated after efforts to locate family have been exhausted. The cremated remains will be held for at least one year before the ashes are scattered at sea.
Q. What mortuary should I choose?
A. The Coroner’s Office does not make mortuary referrals. Relatives, religious leaders and the phone directory should be able to assist you in selecting a mortuary.
Q. Where can I get a death certificate?
A. The Coroner's Office does not issue death certificates. Please visit the Reports and Certificates page for information on how to obtain a certificate.
Q. How long do you keep tissue or blood specimens and what is required for the release of these specimens for paternity testing?
A. Tissue and blood specimens are retained for one year but in most cases, blood DNA cards are retained indefinitely. Written authorization must be obtained from the next-of-kin before any specimens are released to a laboratory for testing.
Tissue/Organ/Body Fluid Retention Notification
If it is determined that an autopsy, external examination or toxicology analysis is required to determine or confirm the cause and manner of death pursuant to California Government Code Section 27491, tissue(s)/organ(s)/body fluid(s) may be retained for analysis and/or evidentiary purposes pursuant to California Government Code Section 27491.4. Tissues/organs/body fluids retained at autopsy or as part of any coroner investigative procedure will be disposed of pursuant to California Health and Safety Code Section 7054.4