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The Coroner is required to investigate certain deaths pursuant to state law. In general, this includes all unnatural and unexpected deaths, or those where the attending medical doctor is unable to state a cause of death. For an exhaustive list of all deaths under the jurisdiction of the coroner, refer to California Government Code 27491.

The Coroner’s responsibility is to positively identify a decedent, determine the cause and manner of death, notify the decedent’s next-of-kin, and safeguard personal property. The Coroner may also investigate the death scene, perform an examination of the decedent, conduct interviews of family members or witnesses, and collect physical evidence.

If necessary, a decedent may be transported to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department – Coroner Division located at 1071 W. Santa Ana Blvd, Santa Ana, CA 92703. The most common reasons for a decedent to go to the Coroner is for autopsy examination or to establish positive identification through scientific means.

The purpose of the autopsy is to determine the cause of death, and the level of examination required to achieve this will vary from case to case. A decedent may undergo an external examination, complete autopsy, or partial autopsy, and this decision is made at the discretion of the Coroner largely depending on the circumstances of death and any pre-existing medical history. The Deputy Coroner can tell you the level of examination required for your loved one.

A forensic autopsy is a postmortem, surgical examination of the body conducted by a licensed medical doctor known as a forensic pathologist. The forensic pathologist has education and training specific to the effects of diseases in the human body and recognizing the appearance and effects of injuries or toxins. The forensic pathologist will closely examine each major organ in the body and sometimes collect specimens to be utilized for additional laboratory testing. The forensic pathologist will prepare an autopsy report to document his/her findings.

The Coroner’s facility does not allow public visitation or viewing. Viewing can take place at the family’s selected mortuary.

After losing a loved one, the next-of-kin should contact the mortuary or cremation service of their choice. They are prepared to assist you in making decisions regarding your loved one’s burial or cremation, and any potential funeral services. Be sure to provide them with the Coroner case number assigned to your loved one’s case; this will prompt them to work with the Coroner to arrange for release of your loved one from our facility.

Personal belongings collected by the Coroner is released to the legal next-of-kin; sometimes, this is done immediately at the location of death and other times property is held in a secure locker at the Coroner Facility until next-of-kin can be located. Property held at the Coroner Facility is released by appointment only Monday-Friday 8:00am-4:30pm excluding holidays. Please call (714) 647-7400 to make an appointment.

The next-of-kin may request to have their selected mortuary or cremation service pick up the property on their behalf. This is usually done at the same time your loved one is released from the Coroner Facility. If you wish to have the mortuary receive property on your behalf, you may designate this on the Release Form, which is completed at the mortuary.

Next-of-kin may also designate any other party to pick-up property on their behalf. The designation must be made in writing. The Coroner has created this form to assist you.

In accordance with state law, a fee of $318.00 is charged for the transportation of a decedent from the place of death to the Coroner Facility. The mortuary or cremation service will include this in the funeral expenses and then provide payment to the Coroner. The next-of-kin will not need to make any payments directly to the Coroner. Additionally, any other cost associated with the autopsy examination is covered by the County of Orange.

The Coroner will complete the postmortem examination portion of the investigation as quickly as possible in order to allow families to plan services in a timely manner. For further information regarding your loved one’s specific examination timeline, please contact the Deputy Coroner.

The Orange County Social Services Agency General Relief (GR) program is a County funded program that provides temporary cash aid to those who qualify. General Relief funds may be used for the burial or cremation of indigent decedents and the application must be initiated by the next-of-kin. To learn more about the General Relief program and whether you qualify, call the Social Services Agency call center at (800) 281-9799 or visit

In some cases the cause of death is known immediately following the autopsy examination. In others, additional investigation or laboratory testing is required and the cause of death may be “pending.” You may learn the cause of death from the mortuary once the death certificate has been filed, or you may contact the Deputy Coroner directly.

Copies of the certified death certificate are ordered for the family by the funeral director handling final arrangements. If needed, additional copies may be purchased from the County of Orange Health Care Agency at 200 W. Santa Ana Blvd, Santa Ana, CA 92702 (714) 480-6700.

The Coroner does not issue death certificates but can provide a Verification of Death Letter.  You may submit a request electronically by emailing


Pending deaths are generally finalized in approximately 4-6 months, although some may take longer based upon the level of testing requested by the pathologist.  In the meantime, you may order a “pending death certificate” if needed to start handling your loved ones affairs.  See question number 14 for instructions on how to order a death certificate.

Coroner records are released only after a case is closed.  You may submit a request electronically by emailing and reports will be returned via email at no charge. Records can also be ordered in person at the Coroner Facility and will be provided at a cost of .15 cents per page.