The Coroner is a Constitutional Officer (elected) and has jurisdiction over all deaths investigated by his office. Generally, the Coroner is responsible for investigating all suspicious and violent deaths, as well as all deaths that occur outside of a hospital or nursing home. In addition, all deaths that occur less than 24 hours after patients are admitted to the hospital, and all emergency room deaths, are investigated by the Coroner's Office.
It is the sole responsibility and authority of the Coroner to determine the manner of death of every person who dies in Berkeley County, or that was injured in Berkeley County and resulted in death even if that death occurred elsewhere. As circumstances warrant, the Coroner may retain the assistance of experts in the fields of pathology, anthropology, toxicology, odontology, entomology, radiology, photography, trace evidence collection, and other fields of forensic science to assist in his investigation. Cause of death is determined by a pathologist, or physician consulting with the Coroner. The Coroner has to determine and made the decision as to whether the death was of natural, accidental, homicidal, suicidal, or undermined causes. The Coroner makes the sole decision as to when an autopsy will be performed, and in many cases, must witness the autopsy. The Solicitor has the authority to request an autopsy.
It is the responsibility of the Coroner to see that all evidence at the scene of a death is preserved and all personal belongings of the decedent are safeguarded and returned to his/her family. When possible, the Coroner personally notifies relatives and loved ones of the unfortunate death. The Coroner works closely with all branches of the military regarding deaths and disasters, and assumes joint investigation concerning any military personnel or military-dependant death occurring in Berkeley County. Military Chaplains or authorized military personnel will normally notify the next-of-kin concerning a military-related death in Berkeley County. The military notifies the Coroner when notification has been completed. The Coroner controls the release of the name(s) of the decedent(s) to the news media in order to protect the next-of-kin's rights.
In addition to the above responsibilities, the Coroner conducts inquests and Coroner reviews; issues burial removal permits; authorizes and issues cremation letters to parties of concern; signs death certificates; maintains permanent records on each and every case.
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