Coroner Frequently Asked Questions
What is the duty of the Coroner as mandated by Illinois State Statute?
Chapter 55; Section 5/3-3007: Each Coroner shall be the conservator of the peace of his county, and in the performance of his/her duties shall have the same powers as the Sheriff.
Section 5/3-3013: Where the office of the Sheriff is vacant, the Coroner of the county shall perform all the duties required by law to be performed by the Sheriff and have the same powers…until another Sheriff is elected or appointed and qualified.
What is a Coroner's Case?
The Coroner is responsible for investigating and determining cause of death as follows:
Section 5/3-3013: Every Coroner, whenever, as soon as he/she knows or is informed that the dead body of any person is found, or lying within his/her county, whose death is suspected as being:
A. Caused by...
- Sudden or violent death, whether apparently suicide, homicide or accidental…
- Blunt trauma (blows)
- Cutting or stabbing
- Electric shock
- Asphyxia, Drowning
- Vehicular collisions
- Weather-related (exposure)
- Drug overdose, poison ingestion
- Fractures of bones
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Anesthetic accident (O.R.)
- Work related deaths
B. A maternal or fetal death due to abortion…sex crime or a crime against nature…
C. A suspicious, obscure or mysterious death…
D. A death where addiction to alcohol or drugs may have been a contributing cause…
E. A natural death where the decedent was not attended by a licensed physician or occurring within 24 hours
of admission to hospital…
F. Deaths occurring in any jail or other correctional institution…
Shall go to the place where the dead body is and take charge of same and shall make a preliminary investigation into the circumstances of the death.
What is an Inquest?
An inquest is a legal public inquiry (hearing) into the manner of death in which the Coroner and six jurors sit in a quasi-judicial fashion and evidence is presented (medical, investigative and legal) to determine the manner and circumstances surrounding a death. Inquests assist the following: Public health agencies, public and private organizations and law enforcement agencies in an attempt to detect foul play or hazardous conditions. Family members may attend and learn all the facts surrounding the death of a loved one. However, as of January 1st, 2007, it is no longer mandatory by state law, for a Coroner to conduct formal inquests. The Lake County Coroner’s Office now conducts internal case conferences to determine the manner of death (i.e., homicide, suicide, accident, undetermined) in all cases of unnatural deaths. These conferences are no less thorough than a formal inquest and provide the family with a more timely conclusion and issuance of the permanent death certificate
Who Reports the Death to the Coroner?
Section 5/3-3020: Every law enforcement official, funeral director, ambulance attendant, hospital director or administrator or person having custody of the body…and any physician in attendance upon such a decedent at the time of his/her death, shall notify the Coroner promptly. Any such person failing to do so shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.
Who Signs the Death Certificate?
Section 5/3-3018: Every Coroner, as soon as he/she shall have completed his/her investigation of the cause and circumstances to death coming within his/her jurisdiction, shall issue a death certificate.
What Authority Does the Coroner Have in Regard to Investigation into the Circumstances of the Death?
Section 5/3-3013: In cases of apparent suicide, homicide or accidental death, the Coroner may…summon a jury of 6 persons…and conduct an inquest into the manner of death. All deaths in state institutions and all deaths of wards of the State in private care facilities…shall be reported to the Coroner of the county in which the facility is located.
What Authority Does the Coroner Have in Regard to the Dead Body?
Section 5/3-3019: No dead body…or the personal property of such a deceased person, shall be handled, moved, disturbed, embalmed or removed from the place of death by any person, except with the permission of the Coroner. Any person knowingly violating the provisions of this Section is guilty of Class A misdemeanor.
Section 5/3-3015: Where a death has occurred and the circumstances concerning the death are suspicious, obscure, mysterious and the cause of death cannot be established definitely except by autopsy, it shall be the duty of the Coroner to cause an autopsy to be performed.
Section 5/3-3021: The Coroner shall release the body of the decedent to the next-of-kin or to the funeral director selected by such persons. Authorization of appropriate next-of-kin is required by the Lake County Coroner's Office.
What is an Autopsy?
An autopsy is a surgical procedure (internal and external examination of the body) used to aid the Coroner in establishing a cause of death in those cases where the cause cannot be established with a reasonable degree of certainty without an autopsy or mandated by State Statute. An autopsy is performed by a licensed forensic pathologist who has been certified by the State of Illinois.
Does the family need to consent to an autopsy before the Coroner may authorize that one be performed?
No. The Coroner may order an autopsy to be performed in any case deemed necessary. In matters of death investigation, the Coroner has absolute and complete authority and unlimited powers to:
- Make chemical analysis of body tissues
What are the Responsibilities of the Coroner?
The responsibilities of the Coroner are to ensure that the proper scientific studies are performed:
- Toxicology tests
- Microscopic examinations
- Taking and gathering reports
- Notification of death to families
- On-scene investigation
- Transportation of victims assuring chain of evidence security
- Evidence collecting
- Dental examination and identification
- Meeting with survivors
- Presiding at inquests
- Issuance of Death Certificates and Cremation Permits
- Medical agencies
- Funeral Directors
- Law enforcement agencies
- Fire & Rescue Departments