Frequently Asked Questions


Please note that this information is for general information only and must not be interpreted as a legal description of a Coroner’s duties.  Reference should be made to the Idaho Code for complete information.

Q:  Who Is The Coroner?

A:  The Clearwater County Coroner is an elected position.  The Coroner serves to investigate deaths in which certain circumstances, which are defined by Idaho Code, have occurred.  The Coroner determines in each of those cases the manner and cause of death and, if necessary, holds an Inquest and determine the facts as to how, when, where and by what means the deceased came to his death.

Q:  Why Is A Coroner Called When Death Is Due To Natural Causes?

A:  The Coroner investigates many types of deaths, such as those due to foul play, suicide and accidents.  However, he must also investigate natural deaths when they fall under certain criterion.  For instance deaths that:

  • are sudden and unexpected
  • are from illness not under treatment or not attended by a qualified physician
  • occur in certain types of institutions
  • raise questions that can only be answered fairly after an investigation.

Q:  Who Calls The Coroner?

A:  Any person who believes that a death has occurred under the circumstances set out in the Idaho Code must immediately notify a coroner.

Q:  Why Do Police Investigate?

A:  Because the Police Department responds to all emergency calls, they are often first on the scene.  Their special training and expertise enable them to gather information and provide services which allow the Coroner to carry out as thorough an investigation as possible.

Q:  How Can I Obtain Information?

A:  When an investigation is complete the Coroner may provide a copy of the Coroner’s Investigation Statement, upon request, to the immediate family (spouse, parent, child, brother, sister) or personal representative.  The Coroner’s Investigation Statement contains information such as the date, place, cause and manner of death.  It also includes other relevant postmortem findings.

Q:  How Do I Obtain A Death Certificate?

A:  Generally, the Funeral Home handling the funeral service will provide a Death Certificate.  A family member may also contact the Idaho State Vital Statistic Office and request one.  There is a fee for each copy obtained.

Q:  Is Consent Required For a Medical-Legal Autopsy?

A:  No.  Autopsies often help answer questions regarding hereditary aspects of diseases, and the findings can have important implications for estate and insurance purposes.  An Autopsy also prevents anxiety from not knowing what actually caused a death.  If there are objections the Coroner will explain the need for the Autopsy, but consent is not required.

Q:  Is An Autopsy Required In Every Case?

A:  No.  The Coroner is trained and has experience which enables him to decide if the findings required by law can be determined without an Autopsy.

Q:  Who Performs The Autopsy?

A:  The Coroner directs a qualified specialist in Pathology to conduct the examination and may request special examination of particular organs or fluids by other experts.

Q:  Will An Autopsy Delay Funeral Arrangements?

A:  In general the answer is no.  However, if there is a portion of the investigation, for example identification, which may cause delay, your Funeral Director will advise you as to timing of viewing arrangements, etc.

Q:  Will There Be An Inquest?

A:  Inquests are held on all persons that have been involved with a Law Enforcement Officer at the time of his death.  Inquests can also be held at the Coroner’s discretion.  The Coroner may hold an Inquest when certain circumstances relating to a death need to be brought to the attention of the public, or when the identity of the deceased, the date, place or cause of death has not been established or when it is unknown how a death occurred.

Q:  If There Is An Inquest, Does The Family Have To Attend?

A:  Not unless a member has been called to be a witness