Legislation – Title 45

§ 45-16-1. How elected, commissioned, qualified, and removed

 

(a) Coroners are elected, commissioned, and removed as are clerks of the superior courts; and coroners shall hold their offices for four years.

 

(b)(1) No person shall be eligible to offer for election to or to hold the office of coroner unless he or she:

 

(A) Is a citizen of the United States;

 

(B) Is a resident of the county in which he or she seeks the office of coroner for at least two years prior to his or her qualifying for the election to the office and remains a resident of such county during his or her term of office;

 

(C) Is a registered voter;

 

(D) Has attained the age of 25 years prior to the date of the general primary in the year he or she qualifies for election to the office;

 

(E) Has obtained a high school diploma or its recognized equivalent. This subparagraph shall not apply to any person serving as a coroner on July 1, 1980;

 

(F) Has not been convicted of a felony offense or any offense involving moral turpitude contrary to the laws of this state, any other state, or the United States; and

 

(G) Has successfully completed the next scheduled class no longer than 180 days after such person’s election or appointment a basic training course provided by the Georgia Police Academy, but the affidavit required by paragraph (2) of this subsection shall not be required to affirm that the requirements of this subparagraph have been met at the time of qualifying for the office of coroner.

 

(2) Each person offering his or her candidacy for the office of coroner shall file an affidavit with the officer before whom such person has qualified to seek the office of coroner prior to or at the time for qualifying, which affidavit shall affirm that he or she meets all of the qualifications required pursuant to paragraph (1) of this subsection.

 

(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any person holding office as the mayor of a municipality with a population of 5,000 or less according to the United States decennial census of 1980 or any future such census is specifically authorized to serve simultaneously as coroner; and any person holding the office of coroner is specifically authorized to serve simultaneously as mayor of a municipality with a population of 5,000 or less according to the United States decennial census of 1980 or any future such census.

 

§ 45-16-2. Appointment by judges of the probate courts

 

(a) Whenever an election fails to fill the office of coroner, the judge of the probate court shall appoint a person to serve as the coroner until a successor is duly elected in a special election which shall be held at the time of the next general election to serve out the remainder of the unexpired term of office.

 

(b) In the event a vacancy occurs in the office of coroner, the judge of the probate court shall appoint a person to serve out the unexpired term of office and until his successor shall be duly elected and qualified.

 

(c) No appointment or election under subsection (a) or (b) of this Code section shall be of any effect until proper bond and security is given and the oath of office is taken.

 

§ 45-16-3. Oath of office; form

 

Before beginning the duties of the office of coroner, a coroner shall take the oath required of all civil officers and shall take the following oath:

 

“I swear that I will well and truly serve the State of Georgia in said office and faithfully and truly execute all writs and precepts to me directed or which I may lawfully execute, when placed in my charge, and return the same according to the best of my knowledge, skill, and judgment; that I will in no case knowingly use or exercise my office illegally, corruptly, or unjustly and that I will not, under any pretense, take, accept, or enjoy any fee or reward pertaining to my office other than such as are allowed by law; but that I will, in all things touching the duties of my office, demean myself honestly, fairly, and impartially according to the best of my ability, so help me God.”

 

§ 45-16-4. Bond. Liability for moneys collected and failure of duty

 

A coroner shall give bond and surety in the sum of $ 12,500.00 at the same time as he takes the oath provided for in Code Section 45-16-3. He is liable for retaining moneys collected or for otherwise failing to do his duty as sheriffs are and is subject to the same proceedings.

 

§ 45-16-5. Additional bond when acting in place of sheriff

 

When a coroner is required to act in the place of a sheriff, generally or specially, the judge of the probate court may require of him an additional bond in such sum and with such sureties as the judge, in his discretion, may think sufficient to meet the contingency.

 

§ 45-16-6. Training course

 

During every calendar year they are in office, every coroner and deputy coroner shall be required, as a condition of continuing to serve as coroner, to take a training course approved by the Georgia Coroner’s Training Council pursuant to Code Section 45-16-66. Any coroner or deputy coroner taking the approved training course provided by the Georgia Police Academy shall receive the same expense allowance per day as that received by a member of the General Assembly, plus reimbursement of actual transportation costs while traveling by public carrier or the legal mileage rate for the use of a personal automobile and registration fees for such training course. Such expense allowance and reimbursements shall be paid by the county governing authority from county funds. In the event, however, that a coroner or deputy is prevented in any calendar year from taking such training by sickness or other providential cause, the requirement of training for that year may be waived by the Georgia Coroner’s Training Council.

 

§ 45-16-7. Deputies

 

(a) As soon as practicable after July 1, 1980, and at the beginning of each term of the coroner thereafter, the coroner of each county shall appoint a deputy coroner or coroners as provided in this Code section. A deputy coroner shall be appointed for each county, and one or more additional deputy coroners may be appointed for any county, in the discretion of the coroner. Each deputy coroner shall serve at the pleasure of the coroner and may be replaced by the coroner at any time. Each deputy coroner shall take the same oath, give the same bond, be entitled to the same fees, and have the same powers as the coroner; but a deputy coroner shall act as coroner only when the coroner is himself unable to act.

 

(b) No person shall be eligible to hold the office of deputy coroner unless he or she holds a high school diploma or its recognized equivalent. Any deputy coroner who is in office on July 1, 1980, however, shall without limitation be eligible to serve as deputy coroner at any time after said date without regard to whether he or she meets the requirements of this subsection.

 

(c) Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, there shall be appointed only one deputy coroner, and, on and after July 1, 1999, there shall only be one deputy coroner in each such county unless otherwise approved by the local governing authority of the county.

 

§ 45-16-8. Shall serve process, when by the judge of the probate court.

 

If any person makes an affidavit stating (1) that a sheriff is disqualified from acting in any proceeding, which disqualification was not apparent at the outset of the proceeding, or (2) that a sheriff or his deputy refuses to serve a writ or other process, then the clerk of the court from which the process issues shall place the process in the hands of the coroner for execution. The clerk may compel the sheriff to return the writ or other process to the clerk’s office in order to allow for execution by the coroner.

 

§ 45-16-9. Fees when performing duties of sheriff

 

(a) When performing the duties of a sheriff, the coroner’s fees are the same as a sheriff’s.

 

(b) This Code section shall not be construed to repeal or preempt any local Act or general Act of local application which places any coroner upon an annual salary or authorizes any coroner to receive fees in excess of those specified in this Code section.

 

§ 45-16-10. Release of records of death to coroners of other states under certain circumstances

 

Records, papers, or reports concerning the death of a person on file at any hospital, nursing home, or other medical facility in this state shall be available to a coroner of another state if such person was injured in, a resident of, or buried in the county of such coroner in such other state or if such records, papers, or reports are the subject of a subpoena issued by the coroner of another state. The release of such records to the coroner of another state shall not be prohibited by Article 4 of Chapter 18 of Title 50.

 

§ 45-16-11. Additional compensation

 

(a)(1) Any other law to the contrary notwithstanding, the minimum annual salary of each coroner in any of the counties in this state in the following population brackets shall be fixed according to the population of the county in which he or she serves, as determined by the United States decennial census of 1990 or any future such census. Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, each such coroner shall receive an annual salary, payable in equal monthly installments from the funds of the coroner’s county, of not less than the amount fixed in the following schedule:

 

Population

Minimum Salary

 

0–11,889

$ 1,200.00

11,890–19,999

2,400.00

20,000–34,999

3,600.00

 

(2) Whenever the state employees subject to compensation plans authorized and approved in accordance with Code Section 45-20-4 receive a cost-of-living increase or general performance based increase of a certain percentage or a certain amount, the amounts fixed in the minimum salary schedule in paragraph (1) of this subsection, and in Code Section 45-16-11.1, or the amounts derived by increasing each of said amounts through the application of longevity increases pursuant to subsection (b) of this Code section, where applicable, shall be increased by the same percentage or same amount applicable to such state employees. If the cost-of-living increase or general performance based increase received by state employees is in different percentages or different amounts as to certain categories of employees, the amounts fixed in the minimum salary schedule in paragraph (1) of this subsection, and in Code Section 45-16-11.1, or the amounts derived through the application of longevity increases, shall be increased by a percentage or an amount not to exceed the average percentage or average amount of the general increase in salary granted to the state employees. The Office of Planning and Budget shall calculate the average percentage increase or average amount increase when necessary. The periodic changes in the amounts fixed in the minimum salary schedule in paragraph (1) of this subsection, and in Code Section 45-16-11.1, or the amounts derived through the application of longevity increases, as authorized by this paragraph shall become effective on the first day of January following the date that the cost-of-living increases received by state employees become effective; provided, however, that if the cost-of-living increases or general performance based increases received by state employees become effective on January 1, such periodic changes in the amounts fixed in the minimum salary schedule in paragraph (1) of this subsection, and in Code Section 45-16-11.1, or the amounts derived through the application of longevity increases, as authorized by this paragraph shall become effective on the same date that the cost-of-living increases or general performance based increases received by state employees become effective.

 

(3) The county governing authority may supplement the minimum annual salary of the coroner in such amount as it may fix from time to time; but no coroner’s compensation supplement shall be decreased during any term of office. Any prior expenditure of county funds to supplement the coroner’s salary in the manner authorized by this paragraph is ratified and confirmed. Nothing contained in this paragraph shall prohibit the General Assembly by local law from supplementing the annual salary of the coroner.

 

(b) The amounts provided in paragraph (1) of subsection (a) of this Code section and Code Section 45-16-11.1, as increased by paragraph (2) of subsection (a) of this Code section, shall be increased by multiplying said amounts by the percentage which equals 5 percent times the number of completed four-year terms of office served by any coroner after December 31, 2000, effective the first day of January following the completion of each such period of service.

 

(c) The minimum salaries provided for under this Code section shall be in addition to any fees, including the death investigation fee provided for under subsection (b) of Code Section 45-16-27, paid by the county governing authority to the coroner on a per-call basis and in addition to any expenses.

 

(d) The minimum salaries provided for in this Code section shall be considered as salary only. Expenses for deputies, equipment, supplies, copying equipment, and other necessary and reasonable expenses for the operation of a coroner’s office shall come from funds other than the funds specified as salary in this Code section.

 

(e) This Code section shall not be construed to reduce the salary of any coroner in office on July 1, 2001; provided, however, that successors to such coroners in office on July 1, 2001, shall be governed by the provisions of this Code section. All local legislation in effect on July 1, 2001, or enacted thereafter affecting compensation for coroners of the various counties shall be of full force and effect except where the same provides for a salary lower than provided in this Code section, in which event this Code section shall prevail.

 

§ 45-16-11.1. Additional compensation

 

In addition to the minimum salary provided for in Code Section 45-16-11, in any county which is the site of more than one state correctional institution or prison for adults or juveniles and which compensates the county coroner by salary, the state shall compensate the county coroner in the amount of $ 110.00 for each state inmate death in such county. The county coroner of such a county is authorized to accept the compensation provided in accordance with this Code section despite any local Act which requires such a coroner to send fees to the county treasury or the county governing authority.

 

§ 45-16-11.2. Monthly expense allowance

 

In addition to any salary, fees, or expenses now or hereafter provided by law, the governing authority of each of the counties in this state in the following population bracket is authorized to provide as contingent expenses for the operation of the office of coroner, and payable from county funds, a monthly expense allowance of not less than the amount fixed in the following schedule:

 

Population

Minimum Monthly Expenses

 

0–34,999

 ………………………………………………………………………………..

$ 50.00

 

§ 45-16-20. Short title

 

This article shall be known and may be cited as the “Georgia Death Investigation Act.”

 
§ 45-16-21. Definitions

 

As used in this article, the term:

 

(1) “Autopsy” means the dissection of a dead body and the examination of bone, tissue, organs, and foreign objects for the purpose of determining the cause of death and circumstances surrounding the same, which procedure shall include as a minimum an external examination and the examination of the brain, neck and thoracic organs, and abdominal organs.

 

(1.1) “Chief medical examiner” means the chief medical examiner appointed pursuant to Code Section 35-3-153.

 

(2) “County medical examiner” means that office established in lieu of the office of coroner pursuant to Code Section 45-16-80 or any amendment to the Constitution continued pursuant to the authority of Article XI, Section I, Paragraph IV of the Constitution.

 

(3) “Division” means the Division of Forensic Sciences of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

 

(4) “External examination” means an external examination of a dead body but shall not include dissection of the body for any purpose except dissection which is necessary for and limited to procurement of blood or body fluids for toxicological or other analysis.

 

(5) “Forensic consultant” means a person meeting the requirements and authorized to perform the duties specified in subsection (c) of Code Section 45-16-23.

 

(6) “Inquest” means an official judicial inquiry before a coroner and coroner’s jury for the purpose of determining the cause of death.

 

(7) “Limited dissection” means the incision into or dissection of a dead body for diagnosis or evidence collection and the term includes without being limited to an external examination but does not include an individual examination of the:

 

(A) Brain;

 

(B) Neck organs;

 

(C) Thoracic organs; and

 

(D) Abdominal organs

 

but may include an examination of any but not all of the categories of organs specified in subparagraphs (A) through (D) of this paragraph.

 

(8) “Local medical examiner” means a person meeting the requirements and authorized to perform the duties specified in subsection (b) of Code Section 45-16-23.

 

(9) “Medical examiner” means:

 

(A) The chief medical examiner;

 

(B) A regional medical examiner;

 

(C) A county medical examiner;

 

(D) A local medical examiner; or

 

(E) Any person who is employed by the state and appointed as a medical examiner as of December 1, 1989, who continues to perform the duties and exercise the powers of a medical examiner under this article when such performance and exercise are within the scope of such employment.

 

(10) “Medical examiner’s inquiry” means an inquiry made by a medical examiner into the circumstances surrounding a death which is required to be reported under the provisions of Code Section 45-16-24, which inquiry may include, but is not required to include, a scene investigation, an external examination, a limited dissection, an autopsy, or any combination thereof.

 

(11) “Medical examiner’s investigator” means a person meeting the requirements and authorized to perform the duties specified in subsection (d) of Code Section 45-16-23.

 

(12) “Peace officer in charge” means any peace officer of the Georgia State Patrol or agent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, sheriff or sheriff’s deputy, peace officer assigned to the coroner’s office, county policeman, city policeman, or city detective who may be in charge of the investigation of any case involving a death covered by Code Sections 45-16-27 and 45-16-32.

 

(13) “Regional medical examiner” means a medical examiner who is employed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and who is a pathologist appointed by the chief medical examiner pursuant to Code Section 35-3-153.

 

(14) “Scene investigation” means an examination by the medical examiner or medical examiner’s investigator of the area surrounding a dead body or area where a death or agonal event occurred.

 

(15) “Unattended death,” “died unattended,” or “died unattended by a physician” means a death where a person dies of apparently natural causes and has no physician who can certify the death as being due to natural causes. If the suspected cause of death directly involves any trauma or complication of such trauma, the death must be reported to the coroner or county medical examiner. An unattended death also occurs when a person is admitted in an unresponsive state to a hospital and dies within 24 hours of admission.

 

§ 45-16-22. Duties of director of division

 

(a) The director of the division is authorized and directed to cooperate with and assist the peace officers in charge, medical examiners, and coroners of the state in making the facilities of the division available for the performing of medical examiners’ inquiries on dead bodies as required by this article.

 

(b) The county governing authority shall after consulting with the coroner, if any, be authorized to appoint one or more local medical examiners who shall be licensed physicians or pathologists. The chief medical examiner may, at the request of a county governing authority, authorize one or more licensed physicians or pathologists at convenient locations throughout the state to act as local medical examiners in performing medical examiners’ inquiries as required by this article. The chief medical examiner shall confer with local county officials in making appointments of regional and local medical examiners. Any regional or local medical examiner appointed by the chief medical examiner shall have such jurisdiction within this state as designated by the chief medical examiner.

 

(c) Except as otherwise provided in this article, it shall be in the sole discretion of the medical examiner to determine whether or not an autopsy or limited dissection is required; provided, however, that the medical examiner shall give due consideration to the opinions of the coroner and the peace officer in charge regarding the requirements of accepted investigation techniques and the rules of evidence applicable thereto.

 

(d) In the event that any local medical examiner or regional medical examiner is unable or unwilling to serve in any case, the coroner or the peace officer in charge may call upon the chief medical examiner, who shall perform a medical examiner’s inquiry or direct another medical examiner to perform such inquiry.

 

(e) For each external examination so performed, in cases where limited dissection or autopsy of the body is not required, the medical examiner shall receive the fee set in accordance with the provisions of Code Section 35-3-151. The fee in each case is to be paid from funds of the county in which the act was committed; or, if the county in which the act was committed is unknown, the fee shall be paid from funds of the county in which the body was found. In the event the place in which the act was committed is not known but is later established, the county in which the act was committed shall be responsible for payment of fees incurred by the medical examiner. Subject to funds being appropriated or otherwise available for such purpose, the chief medical examiner shall provide transportation of the deceased person to the site of the autopsy, if such autopsy is to be performed by a state or regional medical examiner employed by the state, and to return the body to the county where the death occurred.

 

(f) When death occurs in a hospital as a direct result and consequence of acts or events taking place in a county other than the one in which such death occurs, the body shall be returned to the county in which such acts or events took place. When a dead body is found in a county in which the acts or events leading to death did not occur, it shall be returned to the county in which the acts or events did occur, if known. The coroner or local medical examiner of the county in which such acts or events took place shall assume jurisdiction and the medical examiner’s inquiry, if any performed, shall be paid for from funds of the county in which such acts or events took place.

 

(f.1) When death occurs in a hospital as a direct result and consequence of acts or events taking place in a county other than the one in which such death occurs, the hospital shall immediately notify the coroner or the county medical examiner of the county in which the acts or events resulting in the death occurred.

 

(g) In the event that a medical examiner’s inquiry is performed by the chief medical examiner or an employee thereof, no fee therefor shall be imposed pursuant to this Code section. In the event that a medical examiner’s inquiry is performed by a medical examiner regularly employed at a fixed compensation by any county or group of counties, no fee shall be imposed upon any county or group of counties employing that medical examiner at a fixed compensation.

 

(h) Any person holding office as a medical examiner pursuant to an appointment of the state medical examiner on May 1, 1997, shall continue in the exercise of his or her functions and duties until such person’s successor has been duly appointed.

 

§ 45-16-23. Delegation of powers to local medical examiners, forensic consultants, and medical examiner’s investigators

 

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, any coroner or county medical examiner may delegate to a local medical examiner, forensic consultant, or medical examiner’s investigator the power to perform those duties of such coroner or medical examiner specified in this Code section if the person to whom such power is thus delegated meets the applicable requirements of this Code section for the performance of such duties, but the performance of those delegated duties shall not in any manner infringe upon or diminish the authority of the peace officer in charge at the scene of the crime.

 

(b) A local medical examiner shall be a licensed physician appointed by the state medical examiner to perform scene investigations, external examinations, limited dissections, autopsies, or any combination of such duties.

 

(c) A forensic consultant shall be an expert in a field of forensic science, including but not limited to odontology or anthropology, appointed and authorized by the state medical examiner to examine human remains and evidence under the medical examiner’s jurisdiction.

 

(d) A medical examiner’s investigator shall be a person employed by a medical examiner to perform duties of such medical examiner with the same authority as the medical examiner while at the scene of death and during subsequent investigation, except that no medical examiner’s investigator is authorized to make any arrest or perform official external examinations, limited dissections, or autopsies.

 

§ 45-16-24. Notices of death to coroners or county medical examiners; orders to conduct medical examiner’s inquiries

 

(a) When any person dies in any county in this state:

 

(1) As a result of violence;

 

(2) By suicide or casualty;

 

(3) Suddenly when in apparent good health;

 

(4) When unattended by a physician;

 

(5) In any suspicious or unusual manner, with particular attention to those persons 16 years of age and under;

 

(6) After birth but before seven years of age if the death is unexpected or unexplained;

 

(7) As a result of an execution carried out pursuant to the imposition of the death penalty under Article 2 of Chapter 10 of Title 17;

 

(8) When an inmate of a state hospital or a state, county, or city penal institution; or

 

(9) After having been admitted to a hospital in an unconscious state and without regaining consciousness within 24 hours of admission,

 

it shall be the duty of any law enforcement officer or other person having knowledge of such death to notify immediately the coroner or county medical examiner of the county in which the acts or events resulting in the death occurred or the body is found. For the purposes of this Code section, no person shall be deemed to have died unattended when the death occurred while the person was a patient of a hospice licensed under Article 9 of Chapter 7 of Title 31.

 

(b) A coroner or county medical examiner who is notified of a death pursuant to subsection (a) of this Code section shall order a medical examiner’s inquiry of that death.

 

(c) Whenever an affidavit is made and filed with a court having criminal jurisdiction attesting that a person came to his death by foul play, that court may interrogate and examine witnesses, if any exist, as to the necessity of a medical examiner’s inquiry. Should the court decide that a medical examiner’s inquiry is essential to the ends of justice, such inquiry shall be ordered by that court.

 

(d) A medical examiner’s inquiry required under this Code section shall be reduced to writing and filed as provided in Code Section 45-16-32. At the time of such filing, a copy of the medical examiner’s inquiry into a death reported to a coroner or county medical examiner pursuant to paragraph (6) of subsection (a) of this Code section shall also be transmitted to the department of family and children services of the county in which the child resided at the time of death.

 

§ 45-16-25. Duties of coroner or county medical examiner upon receipt of notice

 

(a)(1) Upon receipt of the notice required by Code Section 45-16-24, the coroner or county medical examiner shall immediately take charge of the body. If a registered professional nurse authorized to make a pronouncement of death under Code Section 31-10-16 or a qualified physician is not available, a coroner, deputy coroner, or medical examiner’s investigator may make a pronouncement of death at the investigation scene if, and only if, one or more of the following conditions is met:

 

(A) The body is in a state of rigor mortis with lividity present;

 

(B) The body is in a state of decomposition evidenced by a component of putrefaction;

 

(C) The body is skeletonized; or

 

(D) Death has been established by qualified emergency medical services personnel.

 

(2) It shall be the duty of a coroner notified as required by Code Section 45-16-24 to summon a medical examiner and proper peace officer. It shall be the duty of a county medical examiner so notified to summon a proper peace officer. When present at the scene of death, the peace officer shall have jurisdiction over the scene of death. The medical examiner or coroner and the peace officer shall together make inquiries regarding the cause, manner, and circumstances of death. If either the peace officer or medical examiner is not present at the scene of death, then whichever of the two officers is present shall have jurisdiction over the scene of death. If neither the peace officer nor the medical examiner is present at the scene of death in any county in which the office of coroner has not been replaced by a county medical examiner, the coroner shall assume the responsibility of such officers at the scene of death and shall have the body transported to a local medical examiner who shall conduct a medical examiner’s inquiry. The medical examiner, at any time, to facilitate examination, when he or she deems it necessary, may have the body embalmed or retain it for refrigeration for preservation or to avoid the threat of infectious disease prior to release of the body to the next of kin. Such expense of embalming shall be paid by the county of the coroner’s or medical examiner’s jurisdiction.

 

(b) When positive identification of dead bodies has not been established conclusively through personal visual examination of the remains by persons well acquainted with the decedent in life or by comparison of fingerprints or footprints or by identification of unique physical characteristics, such as prosthetic appliances, or by comparison of skeletal X-rays, including previous fractures, or by amputations, the medical examiner must either chart or X-ray the decedent’s dentition or call upon a licensed dentist of the medical examiner’s choosing to carry out a dental examination of the body. This may be accomplished either by examination in situ or by removal of the jaws with teeth to the dentist’s office. The dentist shall chart the deceased’s dentition and make two copies, one of which shall be filed with the medical examiner’s inquiry report to the division and the other with the Georgia Crime Information Center of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The dentist may, at his or her discretion, make such X-rays of the mouth as he or she deems necessary. The dentist shall be paid a fee as determined in accordance with Code Section 35-3-151. These fees shall be paid by the county of the coroner’s or local medical examiner’s jurisdiction.

 

(c) The coroner or county medical examiner shall, in the absence of the next of kin of the deceased person, take possession of all property of value found on such person, make an exact inventory thereof on his or her report, and surrender the same to the person entitled to its custody or possession. The coroner, medical examiner, or peace officer shall take possession of any objects, anatomical specimens, or articles which, in his or her opinion, may be helpful in establishing the cause of death, manner of death, or identification of the deceased; and in cooperation with a forensic laboratory he or she may make such tests and examinations of said objects, specimens, or articles as may be necessary or useful in determining the cause of death, manner of death, or the identity of the deceased. At his or her discretion, the medical examiner or coroner may dispose of such objects, specimens, or articles when the medical examiner’s or coroner’s need for their retention has ended. In the event that a criminal prosecution arises, all such objects and articles together with reports of any examinations made upon them shall be retained in the custody of the investigating agency or the forensic laboratory which conducted the examination until their production as evidence is required by the prosecuting officer or upon written order of the peace officer in charge or court having proper jurisdiction.

 

(d) The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is authorized to perform a post mortem examination and autopsy on a person whose death occurs within a state owned or leased building or on the curtilage of such building. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation shall have jurisdiction relating to the investigation of such a death, and this authority and jurisdiction shall supersede any other authority or jurisdiction provided for by this article relating to a post mortem examination or autopsy.

 

§ 45-16-25.1. Release of dead bodies

 

A dead body, other than skeletal remains, taken into custody under this article shall be released to the next of kin of the deceased, or to the agent of the next of kin, no later than 24 hours after the demand for release by that next of kin, or agent thereof, unless by that time the peace officer, medical examiner, or coroner has made a written finding that foul play may have been involved in the death of the deceased.

 

§ 45-16-26. When medical examiner may assume duties of coroner

 

When there is no coroner or deputy coroner in a county in which the office of coroner has not been replaced by a county medical examiner or when both are absent from the county when needed or will not or cannot perform the duties required under this article, the medical examiner shall assume the duties and responsibilities of the coroner. When the medical examiner is performing the duties of the coroner in such cases, such medical examiner may sign the death certificate except when an inquest is held.

 

§ 45-16-27. When inquests required; investigation fees and costs; photographs and video recordings not subject to disclosure

 

(a) Coroners shall require an inquest to be conducted in their respective counties as follows:

 

(1) When any person dies under any circumstances specified in paragraphs (1) through (8) of subsection (a) of Code Section 45-16-24; provided, however, that an inquest is not required to be held, although the coroner is authorized to hold an inquest, under the following circumstances:

 

(A) When upon the completion of the medical examiner’s inquiry the peace officer in charge and the medical examiner are satisfied that, even though death resulted from violence, no foul play was involved. In this event, the peace officer in charge and the medical examiner shall make a written report of their investigation and findings to the division as set forth in Code Section 45-16-32 and upon their recommendation, the coroner shall make and file a proper death certificate;

 

(B) When there is sufficient evidence to establish the cause and manner of death, even though the medical examiner’s inquiry revealed that death resulted from foul play;

 

(C) When no demand for an inquest is made within 30 days after the filing of the death certificate. However, if such demand is made by the party or parties affected by the death, the coroner is authorized to hold the inquest;

 

(D) When upon the completion of the medical examiner’s inquiry the medical examiner and peace officer in charge are sufficiently satisfied that death resulted from natural causes, and that medical examiner or coroner is willing to and does sign and file a proper death certificate, and no demand for an inquest is made within 30 days thereafter;

 

(D.1) In cases of deaths resulting from an accident involving any civil aircraft, it shall be the responsibility of the peace officer in charge to notify the National Transportation Safety Board or the Federal Aviation Administration of such accident, to proceed to the scene and guard the area in such manner that no bodies, wreckage, cargo, or mail shall be moved or disturbed until authorized by a representative of the National Transportation Safety Board or the Federal Aviation Administration except to the extent necessary to remove persons injured or trapped, to protect the wreckage from further damage, or to protect the public from injury. Where it is necessary to move aircraft wreckage, mail, or cargo, sketches, descriptive notes, and photographs shall be made, if possible, of the original positions and condition of the wreckage and any significant impact marks. The coroner or medical examiner shall assist investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board or the Federal Aviation Administration as authorized by federal law;

 

(E) When after full and complete investigation no evidence of foul play is found in cases of hidden cause of death which fall under the jurisdiction of the coroner. The coroner shall be authorized to sign the death certificate on the basis of the information given to him in the reports of the peace officer in charge and the medical examiner, provided that, in such hidden causes of death, after a complete investigation, if sufficient medical history is obtained by the coroner, the peace officer in charge, or the medical examiner to disclose the cause of death and if the attending physician will sign the death certificate, such cases shall not come under the jurisdiction of the coroner; provided, further, that, if there are sufficient competent eyewitnesses to an act in the opinion of the peace officer in charge, such cases shall not come under the jurisdiction of the coroner; or

 

(F) In cases of deaths of personnel in the armed forces of the United States government resulting from airplane disasters involving airplanes of the armed forces, including crashes or explosions, which deaths shall not come under the jurisdiction of the coroner. It shall be the responsibility of the peace officer in charge to notify the proper armed forces of the United States government immediately of such airplane crashes or explosions in order that they may send their trained forces to the scene for investigation. It shall be the duty of the peace officer in charge, when notified of such crashes or explosions, to proceed to the scene and guard the area in such manner that no bodies or parts of said airplanes shall be moved or disturbed until the arrival of proper investigating officers from the armed forces of the United States government;

 

(2) When an inmate of a state hospital or a state, county, or city penal institution dies unexpectedly without an attending physician or as a result of violence. The chief medical examiner or his or her designee, regional medical examiner, or local medical examiner shall perform all medical examiners’ inquiries. The coroner, in those counties in which such office has not been replaced by a local medical examiner, shall hold an inquest after receiving the written reports as set forth in Code Section 45-16-32;

 

(3) When ordered by a court in connection with a medical examiner’s inquiry ordered by that court pursuant to subsection (c) of Code Section 45-16-24; or

 

(4) Notwithstanding any other provisions of this subsection, no person shall be deemed to have died unattended by a physician when the death occurred while the person was a patient of a hospice licensed under Article 9 of Chapter 7 of Title 31.

 

(b) On and after January 1, 2007, coroners shall be entitled to an investigation fee of $175.00 where no jury is impaneled or a fee of $250.00 where a jury is impaneled and shall be paid upon receipt of a monthly statement to the county treasury. A deputy coroner shall receive the same fee as the coroner for the performance of services in place of the coroner and shall be paid upon receipt of a monthly statement to the county treasury. Such fee shall be paid within ten days after receipt of the coroner’s monthly statement by the county where the investigation or inquest is held except in counties where the coroner receives an annual salary established through local legislation, in which case no fee shall be imposed upon the county by such salaried coroner or deputy coroner.

 

(b.1) A local Act providing for the compensation of a coroner shall remain in full force and effect, except as otherwise provided in this subsection. In those instances where such local Act provides for a salary in an amount less than the amount of compensation such coroner would be entitled to pursuant to subsection (b) of this Code section, the coroner may, elect to be compensated pursuant to subsection (b) of this Code section in lieu of the compensation provided for by local Act. The coroner shall provide written notice to the county governing authority of such election no later than October 1 of any year to be effective January 1 of the next calendar year.

 

(c) When a coroner or a medical examiner or a medical examiner from the office of chief medical examiner, as established in Code Section 35-3-153, conducts an investigation into the death of an individual, the coroner, medical examiner, or medical examiner from the office of chief medical examiner shall be authorized to issue subpoenas to compel the production of any books, records, including but not limited to medical records from hospitals, medical clinics, psychiatric hospitals, physicians’ offices, chiropractors’ offices, and any other health care delivery facility, or papers relevant to the cause of death including without limitation AIDS confidential information as defined by Code Section 31-22-9.1. Any books, records, or papers received by the coroner, medical examiner, or medical examiner from the office of chief medical examiner pursuant to the subpoena must be regarded as confidential information and privileged and not subject to disclosure under Article 4 of Chapter 18 of Title 50. The actual costs of copying any books, records, or papers for the purposes of responding to a subpoena under this subsection shall be paid out of county funds to the person or entity required to respond to that subpoena, and the governing authority of the county of which that coroner or county medical examiner is a public officer shall pay those costs within 30 days after a bill therefor is submitted to the county. A medical examiner from the office of chief medical examiner shall pay the costs of copying from state funds within 30 days after a bill therefor is submitted to the state.

 

(d) Autopsy photographs shall not be subject to disclosure pursuant to Article 4 of Chapter 18 of Title 50; provided, however, that this subsection shall have no application to the disclosure of such photographs to law enforcement agencies and prosecutors for law enforcement purposes or, in closed criminal investigations, to medical schools, medical facilities, and physicians for medical purposes; to individuals who have secured a written release from the deceased’s next of kin; or to the next of kin. It shall be the responsibility of the next of kin to show proof of the familial relationship. For purposes of securing a written release or when access to the photographs is requested by the next of kin, the deceased’s next of kin shall be:

 

(1) The spouse of the deceased if living;

 

(2) If there is no living spouse of the deceased, an adult child of the deceased;

 

(3) If there is no living spouse or adult child, a parent of the deceased;

 

(4) If there is no living spouse, adult child, or parent, a sibling of the deceased;

 

(5) If there is no living spouse, adult child, parent, or sibling of the deceased, a grandparent of the deceased;

 

(6) If none of the above are living, an uncle of the deceased;

 

(7) If none of the above are living, an aunt of the deceased; or

 

(8) If none of the above are living, a first cousin of the deceased.

 

A superior court may, in closed criminal investigations, order the disclosure of such photographs upon findings in writing that disclosure is in the public interest and that it outweighs any privacy interest that may be asserted by the deceased’s next of kin. In any such action, the court shall review the photographs in question in camera and may condition any disclosure on such measurers as the court may deem necessary to accommodate the interests of the parties before it.

 

(e)(1) Crime scene photographs and video recordings, including photographs and video recordings created or produced by a state or local agency or by a perpetrator or suspect at a crime scene, which depict or describe a deceased person in a state of dismemberment, decapitation, or similar mutilation including, without limitation, where the deceased person’s genitalia are exposed, shall not be subject to disclosure pursuant to Article 4 of Chapter 18 of Title 50; provided, however, that this subsection shall not prohibit disclosure of such material to the deceased’s next of kin or to an individual who has secured a written release from the next of kin. It shall be the responsibility of the next of kin to show proof of the familial relationship. For purposes of such access, the deceased’s next of kin shall be:

 

(A) The spouse of the deceased if living;

 

(B) If there is no living spouse of the deceased, an adult child of the deceased; or

 

(C) If there is no living spouse or adult child, a parent of the deceased.

 

(2) Subject to the provisions of paragraph (3) of this subsection, in the case of closed criminal investigations a superior court may order the disclosure of such photographs or video recordings upon findings in writing that disclosure is in the public interest and outweighs any privacy interest that may be asserted by the deceased person’s next of kin. In making such determination, the court shall consider whether such disclosure is necessary for public evaluation of governmental performance, the seriousness of the intrusion into the family’s right to privacy, and whether such disclosure is the least intrusive means available considering the availability of similar information in other public records. In any such action, the court shall review the photographs in question in camera with the custodian of crime scene materials present and may condition any disclosure on such condition as the court may deem necessary to accommodate the interests of the parties.

 

(3) Prior to releasing any crime scene material described in paragraph (1) of this subsection, the custodian of such material shall give the deceased person’s next of kin at least two weeks’ notice. No court shall order a disclosure pursuant to paragraph (2) of this subsection which would disregard or shorten the duration of such notice requirement.

 

(4) The provisions of this subsection shall apply to all undisclosed material which is in the custody of a state or local agency on May 20, 2010, and to any such material which comes into the custody of a state or local agency after such date.

 

(5) This subsection shall not apply to disclosure of crime scene material to counsel representing a convicted defendant in a habeas corpus action pursuant to Chapter 14 of Title 9, on an extraordinary motion for new trial under Code Section 5-5-40 or 5-5-41, or in a federal habeas corpus action under Section 2254 or 2255 of Title 28 of the United States Code for the purpose of preparing to file or litigating such proceedings. Counsel may disclose such materials to his or her client and any expert or investigator assisting counsel but shall not otherwise disseminate such materials, except to the extent they may be necessary exhibits in court proceedings. A request pursuant to this paragraph shall clearly state that such request is being made for the purpose of preparing to file and litigate proceedings enumerated in this paragraph.

 

(6) The director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Board of Public Safety shall promulgate rules and regulations governing the viewing of materials described in paragraph (1) of this subsection by bona fide credentialed members of the press.

 

§ 45-16-27.1. When autopsies required

 

(a) Where a coroner or county medical examiner has been notified pursuant to paragraph (6) of subsection (a) of Code Section 45-16-24 of the death of any person after birth but before seven years of age whose death is unexpected or unexplained, the medical examiner’s inquiry required by Code Section 45-16-25 shall include an autopsy unless that inquiry shows that such death was expected or explainable with a reasonable degree of medical certainty.

 

(b) The provisions of this Code section shall apply notwithstanding subsection (b) of Code Section 45-16-22 or any other provision of this article.

 

§ 45-16-28. Authority to perform autopsy

 

In the case of death of any person under such circumstances as would not require a medical examiner’s inquiry under Code Section 45-16-24, any physician who is duly licensed under the laws of this state or any other state having licensing requirements equal to or greater than those imposed by this state shall be deemed to have been legally authorized to perform an autopsy upon the body of a deceased person when such autopsy has been consented to by the person assuming custody of the body for the purposes of burial, such as the husband, wife, father, mother, child, guardian, next of kin, or, in the absence of any of the foregoing, a friend of such deceased person charged by law with the responsibility of burial. If two or more of such persons assume custody of the body, the consent of one of them shall be deemed sufficient legal authorization for the performance of the autopsy.

 

§ 45-16-29. Removal of body prior to investigation prohibited

 

No person shall move or authorize the removal of any body from the place where the same is found until the investigation is completed and such removal is authorized by the coroner or medical examiner present at such investigation; or, if no such coroner or medical examiner is present, the peace officer shall authorize such removal; provided, however, that this Code section shall not apply to the removal of a body where the death occurred while the person was a patient of a hospice licensed under Article 9 of Chapter 7 of Title 31. If the death resulted from an accident involving the operation of civil aircraft, no body shall be removed until authorized by the representative of the National Transportation Safety Board or the Federal Aviation Administration.

 

§ 45-16-30. Removal of body across state line prior to investigation prohibited

 

No person shall move or transport a body across a Georgia state line until the investigation of the case and the medical examiner’s inquiry are complete and until the removal of the body is authorized by the coroner or medical examiner. Except when the conduct is a violation of Code Section 16-10-94, any person who violates this Code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not less than $ 500.00 or more than $ 1,000.00 or 60 days in jail, or both.

 

§ 45-16-31. Removal of body for purpose of medical examiner’s inquiry; photographs and investigation of premises where found

 

When the deceased body lies in a place inconvenient for holding a medical examiner’s inquiry, the medical examiner or coroner shall be allowed to remove the body to the autopsy room of the nearest public hospital or morgue. If neither the coroner nor the medical examiner is immediately available, the peace officer may assume the authority to have the body moved to such facility. When such facility is not reasonably available, the body may be removed to such other suitable place as may be designated by the coroner or the medical examiner or by the peace officer in charge in the absence of the coroner or medical examiner. If the peace officer in charge is present, no such body shall be removed until photographs of the body and surrounding premises have been made and a thorough investigation of the premises has been made by the proper investigating authorities.

 

§ 45-16-32. Report of medical examiner’s inquiry and coroner’s investigation; procedure where foul play indicated

 

The medical examiner and coroner shall complete a report of each medical examiner’s inquiry and coroner’s investigation and shall maintain permanent records of such reports. The coroner or county medical examiner may file all original reports with the clerk of the superior court of the county. In cases where such report indicates a suspicion of foul play, the medical examiner and peace officer in charge shall transmit any specimens, samples, or other evidence to a forensic laboratory for analysis. In cases where reports indicating foul play are verified by the forensic laboratory, the laboratory shall provide a completed lab report to the appropriate prosecuting attorney where the acts or events leading to the death occurred.

 

§ 45-16-33. Inquest

 

Upon the completion of the medical examiner’s inquiry by the medical examiner, as provided in Code Section 45-16-24, and after verification by the division when such verification is required, the coroner shall then make an inquest into the death of such deceased person as provided in Code Section 45-16-27.

 

§ 45-16-34. Attendance and oath of witnesses; subpoenas for production of books, records, or papers

 

(a) The coroner shall issue subpoenas to or otherwise compel the attendance of witnesses; and he shall administer to such witnesses the following oath:

 

“The evidence that you shall give this inquest on behalf of the state concerning the death of _____ (or a person unknown, as the case may be) shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God.”

 

(b) When a coroner conducts an inquest into the death of an individual, he shall be authorized to issue subpoenas to compel production of any books, records, or papers relevant to the cause of death. Any books, records, or papers received by the coroner pursuant to the subpoena must be regarded as confidential information and privileged and not subject to disclosure under Article 4 of Chapter 18 of Title 50. The actual costs of copying any books, records, or papers for the purpose of responding to a coroner’s subpoena under this subsection shall be paid out of county funds to the person or entity required to respond to that subpoena, and the governing authority of the county of which that coroner is a public officer shall pay those costs within 30 days after a bill therefor is submitted to the county; provided, however, that the county shall not be responsible for duplication costs under $ 25.00.

 

§ 45-16-35. Recognizances of witnesses to appear in court; warrant for arrest of suspected person

 

If the inquest discloses facts which lead or may lead to the prosecution of any person for the homicide of the person for whom the inquest is held, the coroner shall require all witnesses who testify to facts material to the issues involved in such prosecution to enter into a recognizance to appear in the superior court of the county in which the inquest is held and to give evidence against the defendant in such prosecution; and he shall also petition for the issuance of a warrant for the arrest of the person suspected of the homicide, which warrant shall be returnable as other warrants.

 

§ 45-16-36. Jury; fees

 

The coroner shall summon and impanel five jurors and one alternate juror to hold an inquest, which jurors shall decide the verdict by a majority vote. The first grand jury impaneled at the fall term of the superior courts of the several counties shall fix the compensation of said jurors for the next succeeding year but such compensation shall not be less than $ 5.00 nor more than $ 25.00 per diem. It shall be the duty of the coroner or other person discharging the duties of the coroner to give a certificate of the fact of such service to each juror. Upon presentation of such certificate to the proper fiscal authority of the county in which the inquest is held, such fiscal authority shall pay the juror for his services.

 

§ 45-16-37. No coroner’s jury impaneled until investigation complete; jury not required to view body

 

No coroner’s jury shall be impaneled until the investigation is completed and copies of the reports of the medical examiner and the peace officer in charge are received by the coroner. The jury is not required to view the body.

 

§ 45-16-38. Summoning jury; form of precept; duty of sheriff

 

Whenever a coroner receives notice of the death of any person within the limits of the county of which he is coroner, which death occurred under circumstances which make it his duty, under the law, to hold an inquest, he shall make out a precept directed to the sheriff or any constable of the county having jurisdiction requiring him to summon a jury of inquest selected from the grand jury or traverse jury lists of the last excused term of the superior court of such county to appear before the coroner at the time and place mentioned in the precept, which precept may be in the following form:

 

State of Georgia
_____ County
To the sheriff or any lawful constable of said county,
Greeting:
You are required immediately to summon six persons of said county, chosen from the lists of grand jurors and traverse jurors of the last excused term of the superior court of said county, to be and appear before me, the undersigned, coroner of the county aforesaid, at _____, in said county, on the _____ day of _____ at _____ :_____ _____. M. of that same day, then and there to inquire of, do, and execute all such things as in behalf of the state shall be given them in charge concerning the death of _____ (or a person unknown, as the case may be), and be you then and there with this precept to certify what you have done in the premises and further to do whatsoever else may in behalf of the state be enjoined upon you.
Given under my hand and seal, this the _____ day of _____, in the year of our Lord _____.

_______________ Coroner (L.S.)

 

Such precept shall be immediately executed by the sheriff or constable in whose hands it may be placed; and, if the services of the sheriff or a constable cannot be conveniently obtained, the coroner may summon the jury himself.

 

§ 45-16-39. Oath of foreman and other jurors

 

(a) The following oath shall be administered to the foreman of the jury by the coroner:

 

“You, as foreman of the inquest, shall diligently inquire and true presentment make, on behalf of the State of Georgia, how and in what manner _____ (or a person deceased, unknown, as the case may be) came to his death and of such other matters relating to the same as shall be lawfully required of you, according to evidence, so help you God.”

 

(b) The remainder of the jury shall be sworn by the coroner as follows:

 

“The same oath which the foreman of this inquest has taken on his part each of you shall observe and keep upon your part, so help you God.”

 

§ 45-16-40. Charge to jury as to findings; authority of jury in absence of charge

 

(a) The coroner shall charge the jurors to declare, and they shall so declare, whether the person for whom the inquest is held died by:

 

(1) Homicide;

 

(2) Suicide;

 

(3) Accident;

 

(4) Natural causes; or

 

(5) Undetermined causes

 

and all of the circumstances relating to the death.

 

(b) The jury shall have full and unrestricted power to inquire and pass upon all the matters and things thus given them in charge and they shall have this power even if the whole or a part of the charge is omitted.

 

§ 45-16-41. Penalty for juror failing to attend inquest

 

Any juror failing to attend and serve on a coroner’s inquest after being duly summoned may be fined by the coroner in a sum not exceeding $ 100.00 to be levied and collected by execution issued by the coroner unless such defaulting juror shall file in the office of the judge of the probate court a good and sufficient excuse for the default to be judged by the next probate court held thereafter.

 

§ 45-16-42. Results of medical examiner’s inquiry as evidence

 

In all inquests the results of the medical examiner’s inquiry performed shall be offered in evidence either by oral testimony of the medical examiner or by introduction of a copy of the report filed with the director of the division, as verified in the cases requiring verification. The jury shall be free to reach a verdict in accord or discord with such evidence but in all cases such evidence must be presented to them for their consideration.

 

§ 45-16-43. Repealed by Laws 2011, Act 52, § 88, eff. January 1, 2013

 

HISTORICAL AND STATUTORY NOTES

The repealed section, relating to reports of medical examiners’ inquiries as evidence in courts or other proceedings, was derived from Laws 1953, Jan.-Feb. Sess., p. 602, § 19. The repealing law also reserved the section designation.
§ 45-16-44. Disposition of body after medical examiner’s inquiry and inquest

 

After the medical examiner’s inquiry and inquest have been completed, the dead body shall be delivered to the person legally entitled thereto for burial. If no person claims the body, it shall be turned over to the coroner of the county where death occurred for disposition as provided by law. If the deceased has an estate out of which burial expenses can be paid, either in whole or in part, such estate shall be taken for such purpose before any expense under this Code section is imposed upon any county.

 

§ 45-16-45. Disinterment of bodies

 

In order to implement this article, coroners are authorized to disinter any body already buried and, like a sheriff, to command the power of the county for that purpose. Medical examiners, other than local medical examiners, may likewise exercise such authority in any case wherein such authority is granted by an order of the judge of the superior court of the county. Such orders may be granted by judges of the superior courts, in their discretion, upon petition of any medical examiner other than a local medical examiner.

 

§ 45-16-46. Blood specimens from persons unable to give consent; fee of medical examiner

 

When any person has been admitted to a hospital or morgue as a result of any casualty and for any reason whatsoever is unable to give his or her consent to the taking of a sample of blood for analytical purposes, the coroner or peace officer in charge of the investigation of the circumstances surrounding the casualty may notify a medical examiner for the purpose of obtaining a blood sample to test for the presence of intoxicating substances or in the case of a dead body and where appropriate for the presence of infectious agents. The blood may be drawn by the medical examiner or at the medical examiner’s direction. The medical examiner or his or her designee shall be entitled to a fee set in accordance with Code Section 35-3-151 for performing these services, which fee shall be paid in the same manner as set out in Code Section 45-16-22. The peace officer may also request any licensed physician, nurse, emergency medical technician, medical or laboratory technician, or other qualified person to withdraw blood for purposes of this Code section, in which event such person shall incur no civil or criminal liability. The medical examiner or the peace officer in charge shall submit the blood specimens to the division for analysis; and a report shall be submitted by the division to the submitting officer.

 

§ 45-16-47. Violations relating to Georgia Death Investigation Act

 

Except as provided in Code Section 45-16-30, any person who violates this article shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

 

§ 45-16-48. Employment of court reporter by coroner

 

A coroner may be authorized to employ, at his discretion, a court reporter who is certified under Article 2 of Chapter 14 of Title 15, “The Georgia Court Reporting Act,” to record the proceedings of any inquest. The cost of acquiring the services of a certified court reporter shall be paid from the funds of the county where the inquest is held.

 

§ 45-16-49. Continuation of fees at specified rate

 

The fees heretofore authorized to be paid in cases arising under this article prior to May 1, 1997, shall continue to be paid at the rate specified therein until such time as the Board of Public Safety promulgates rules prescribing such fees as provided by paragraph (5) of Code Section 35-3-151.

 

§ 45-16-50. Biological substances used for canine service training

 

A medical examiner within the state of Georgia is authorized to provide to an approved canine instructor or school certain biological substances such as human blood or bodily fluids for the sole purpose of utilizing such substances for the training and handling of police canines in body recovery of human remains or rescue of persons. Such biological substances shall be contained and transported in accordance with appropriate health and safety standards.

 

§ 45-16-60. Short title

 

This article shall be known as “The Georgia Coroner’s Training Council Act.”

 

§ 45-16-61. Definitions

 

As used in this article, the term:

 

(1) “Certified coroner” means a coroner who has the appropriate required certificate of training issued by the council on file with the Board of Public Safety.

 

(2) “Coroner” means any person appointed or elected in a county to serve as coroner or deputy coroner.

 

(3) “Council” means the Georgia Coroner’s Training Council.

 

(4) “School” means any school, college, university, academy, or training program approved by the council and the Board of Public Safety which offers basic, in-service, advanced, specialized, or continuing training, or a combination thereof, and includes within its meaning a combination of course curriculum, instructors, and facilities which meets the standards required by the council.

 

§ 45-16-62. Establishment; membership; duties

 

(a) There is established a council which shall be known and designated as the “Georgia Coroner’s Training Council” which shall be composed of the superintendent of the Georgia Police Academy or his designee, which member shall not be a voting member; five coroners appointed by the Board of Public Safety, three of whom will be selected from a list of five persons recommended by the Georgia Coroner’s Association; and one physician trained in forensic pathology and appointed by the Board of Public Safety, which physician member shall not be a voting member of the council but shall advise the council regarding the training course curriculum for coroners. The term of office of the physician member appointed in 1990 shall begin September 1, 1990, and that and all subsequent terms for that office shall be for four years and until the appointment and qualification of a successor. The five coroners appointed shall serve for terms of four years. The term of office of the member initially appointed in 1987 shall begin September 1, 1987. Upon the expiration of a member’s term of office, such member shall continue to serve on the council until his successor is appointed and qualified. Any person, other than the physician member, appointed to the council who ceases to serve as a coroner shall be ineligible to continue service on the council. The Georgia Police Academy shall establish a curriculum advisory committee to provide information beneficial to the development of courses at the Georgia Police Academy. Members of the committee will be selected by the superintendent of the Georgia Police Academy.

 

(b) Membership on the council does not constitute public office, and no member shall be disqualified from holding office by reason of his membership.

 

(c) Vacancies on the council shall be filled as provided in subsection (a) of this Code section for the remainder of the unexpired term.

 

§ 45-16-63. Oath of office; certificate of appointment

 

Immediately and before entering upon the duties of office, the members of the council shall take the oath of office and shall file the same with the Board of Public Safety, which, upon receiving the oath of office, shall issue to each member a certificate of appointment.

 

§ 45-16-64. Officers; quorum; records; reports

 

(a) The council at its initial meeting, which shall be held promptly after the appointment of its members, shall elect from among its members a chairman and a vice-chairman who shall serve until the first meeting in the succeeding year. Thereafter, the chairman and the vice-chairman shall be elected at the first meeting of each calendar year.

 

(b) The superintendent of the Georgia Police Academy or his designee shall serve as secretary to the council.

 

(c) A simple majority of the councilmembers shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.

 

(d) The council shall maintain minutes of its meetings and such other records as it deems necessary.

 

(e) The council shall report at least annually to the Board of Public Safety and to the General Assembly as to its activities.

 

§ 45-16-65. Functions, powers, and responsibilities

 

The council is vested with the following functions, powers, and responsibilities:

 

(1) To make all the necessary rules and regulations to carry out this article;

 

(2) To cooperate with and secure the cooperation of every department, agency, or instrumentality of the state government or its political subdivisions in furtherance of the purposes of this article;

 

(3) To approve schools and to prescribe minimum qualifications for instructors at approved schools;

 

(4) To issue a certificate of certification to any coroner satisfactorily complying with an approved training program;

 

(5) To withdraw or suspend the certification of any coroner who has performed or is performing the duties of a coroner in violation of this chapter;

 

(6) To do any and all things necessary or convenient to enable it wholly and adequately to perform its duties and to exercise the power granted to it; and

 

(7) To prescribe, by rules and regulations, the minimum requirements for curricula and standards composing the initial in-service, advanced, specialized, and continuing training courses for certification.

 

§ 45-16-66. Training to maintain status of certified coroner

 

(a) In order to maintain the status of a certified coroner, each person certified as such shall complete such additional training per annum during each year in which he or she serves as coroner as provided by the Georgia Coroner’s Training Council in its rules and regulations, but such training course shall not be less than 16 hours per year. Each coroner and deputy coroner shall file a certificate of additional training with such council.

 

(b) No person serving as a coroner shall charge or collect any fee, charge, or cost of any kind for his services, including those fees specified in this article, unless such person is a certified coroner.

 

§ 45-16-67. Injunctions and restraining orders

 

On its own initiative or on the verified complaint of any person that a person has performed or is performing the duties of coroner in violation of this article, the council may file an action seeking equitable relief in its own name in the superior court of any county in this state having jurisdiction of such person. Such action shall allege the facts and pray for a temporary restraining order and temporary injunction against such person restraining him from violating this article. Upon proof thereof, the court shall issue a restraining order, temporary injunction, or permanent injunction without requiring allegation or proof that the plaintiff has no adequate remedy at law. The right of injunction provided for in this Code section shall be in addition to any other remedy which the council has.

 

§ 45-16-80. Abolition of office of coroner and establishment of office of medical examiner

 

(a) In any county of this state the General Assembly by local law is authorized to abolish the office of coroner and establish in lieu thereof the office of medical examiner, which medical examiner shall have the qualifications, powers, and duties provided in this Code section, and who shall be appointed and compensated and have the expenses of office paid as provided in this Code section. The local law abolishing the office of coroner shall specify the effective date of such abolition, which date shall be the date the office of medical examiner is established for the county to which that local law is applicable.

 

(b) A local law abolishing the office of coroner pursuant to this Code section shall comply with the provisions of Code Section 1-3-11, requiring approval in referendums to abolish certain offices.

 

(c) To be eligible for the office of medical examiner, as established pursuant to this Code section, a person shall:

 

(1) Have a doctor of medicine degree and be licensed to practice medicine under the provisions of Chapter 34 of Title 43;

 

(2) Be eligible for certification by the American Board of Pathology; and

 

(3) Have at least one year of medico-legal training or one year of active experience in a scientific field in which legal or judicial procedures are involved at the county, state, or federal level.

 

(d) The requirements for medical examiners established pursuant to paragraphs (2) and (3) of subsection (c) of this Code section may be waived by the governing authority of any county in which the office of medical examiner is established pursuant to this Code section but may not be waived for any person for a longer period than one year.

 

(e) The medical examiner for any county in which the office of medical examiner is established pursuant to this Code section shall be appointed by the governing authority of that county, shall serve at the pleasure of that governing authority, shall be compensated in an amount determined by that governing authority, and all expenses of the office of such medical examiner shall, subject to county budgetary limitations, be paid from the general funds of that county.

 

(f) All of the functions, powers, rights, and duties of and heretofore exercised by the coroner of a county for which is established the office of medical examiner pursuant to this Code section with reference to post-mortem examinations and autopsies shall be performed and exercised by the medical examiner of that county, except that medical examiner shall have no authority to summon and impanel a jury to hold inquests.

 

(g) A medical examiner whose office is established for a county pursuant to this Code section shall be authorized to perform all of the functions prescribed for a coroner under the provisions of Article 2 of this chapter, the “Georgia Death Investigation Act,” except that medical examiner shall have no authority to summon and impanel a jury to hold inquests.

 

(h) The provisions of Article 2 of this chapter, the “Georgia Death Investigation Act,” including but not limited to the penalty provisions, shall apply in all cases regarding a medical examiner whose office is established pursuant to this Code section, except the provisions relating to the holding of inquests shall not apply.

 

(i) A medical examiner whose office is established for a county pursuant to this Code section shall not be required to meet any county residency requirements established by Code Section 45-2-1.

 

(j) Nothing in this Code section shall be construed to affect any medical examiner whose office was established or authorized by any amendment to the Constitution continued pursuant to Article XI, Section I, Paragraph IV of the Constitution