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Chapter 61     Entire Code
‹ Chapter 60A  |  Chapter 62 › Printer Friendly Versions
Chapter 61  |  Article 61 - 12  |  Section 2
WVC 61- CHAPTER 61. CRIMES AND THEIR PUNISHMENT.
WVC -12- ARTICLE 12. POSTMORTEM EXAMINATIONS.

WVC 61-12-1 §61-12-1.
Repealed.

Acts, 1986 Reg. Sess., Ch. 153.

WVC 61-12-2 §61-12-2.
Repealed.

Acts, 1986 Reg. Sess., Ch. 153.

WVC 61 - 12 - 3 §61-12-3. Office of chief medical examiner established; appointment, duties, etc., of chief medical examiner; assistants and employees; promulgation of rules.
(a) The office of chief medical examiner is hereby established within the division of health in the department of health and human resources. The office shall be directed by a chief medical examiner, who may employ pathologists, toxicologists, other forensic specialists, laboratory technicians, and other staff members, as needed to fulfill the responsibilities set forth in this article.

(b) All persons employed by the chief medical examiner shall be responsible to him or her and may be discharged for any reasonable cause. The chief medical examiner shall specify the qualifications required for each position in the office of chief medical examiner, and each position shall be subject to rules prescribed by the secretary of the department of health and human resources.

(c) The chief medical examiner shall be a physician licensed to practice medicine or osteopathic medicine in the state of West Virginia, who is a diplomat of the American board of pathology in forensic pathology, and who has experience in forensic medicine. The chief medical examiner shall be appointed by the director of the division of health to serve a five-year term unless sooner removed, but only for cause, by the governor or by the director.

(d) The chief medical examiner shall be responsible to the director of the division of health in all matters except that the chief medical examiner shall operate with independent authority for the purposes of:

(1) The performance of death investigations conducted pursuant to section eight of this article;

(2) The establishment of cause and manner of death; and

(3) The formulation of conclusions, opinions or testimony in judicial proceedings.

(e) The chief medical examiner, or his or her designee, shall be available at all times for consultation as necessary for carrying out the functions of the office of the chief medical examiner.

(f) The secretary of the department of health and human resources is hereby directed to propose legislative rules in accordance with the provisions of article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code concerning:

(1) The proper conduct of medical examinations into the cause of death;

(2) The proper methods and procedures for postmortem inquiries conducted by county medical examiners and coroners;

(3) The examination of substances taken from human remains in order to determine the cause and manner of death; and

(4) The training and certification of county medical examiners and coroners.

(g) The chief medical examiner is authorized to prescribe specific forms for record books and official papers which are necessary to the functions and responsibilities of the office of the chief medical examiner.

(h) The chief medical examiner, or his or her designee, is authorized to order and conduct an autopsy in accordance with the provisions of this article and this code. The chief medical examiner, or his or her designee, shall perform an autopsy upon the lawful request of any person authorized by the provisions of this code to request the performance of the autopsy.

(i) The salary of the chief medical examiner and the salaries of all assistants and employees of the office of the chief medical examiner shall be fixed by the Legislature from funds appropriated for that purpose. The chief medical examiner shall take an oath and provide a bond as required by law. Within the discretion of the director of the division of health, the chief medical examiner and his or her assistants shall lecture or instruct in the field of legal medicine and other related subjects to the West Virginia university or Marshall university school of medicine, the West Virginia school of osteopathic medicine, the West Virginia state police, other law-enforcement agencies and other interested groups. WVC 61 - 12 - 4 §61-12-4. Central office and laboratory.
The office of the chief medical examiner shall establish and maintain a central office and a laboratory having adequate professional and technical personnel and medical and scientific facilities for the performance of the duties imposed by this article. In order to secure facilities sufficient to meet the duties imposed by the provisions of this code, the chief medical examiner is authorized to enter into agreements, subject to the approval of the director of the division of health, with other state agencies or departments, with public or private colleges or universities, schools of medicine or hospitals for the use of laboratories, personnel, equipment and other fixtures, facilities or services.

WVC 61 - 12 - 5 §61-12-5. Certain salaries and expenses paid by state.
The salaries of the chief medical examiner, the salaries of all assistants and employees employed in the central office and laboratory, the expenses of maintaining the central office and laboratory and the cost of pathological, bacteriological and toxicological services rendered by persons other than the chief medical examiner and his assistants shall be paid by the state out of funds appropriated for that purpose.

WVC 61 - 12 - 6 §61-12-6. Chief medical examiner may obtain additional services and facilities.
Subject to the approval of the director of the division of health, the chief medical examiner may, in order to provide for the investigation of the cause of death as authorized in this article, employ and pay qualified pathologists and toxicologists to make autopsies and such pathological and chemical studies and investigations as he or she considers necessary, in the several counties or regions of the state and he or she may arrange for the use of existing laboratory facilities for such purposes. Qualified pathologists shall hold board certification or board eligibility in forensic pathology or have completed an American board of pathology fellowship in forensic pathology.

WVC 61 - 12 - 7 §61-12-7. Medical examiners.
(a) The chief medical examiner shall appoint for each county in the state a county medical examiner to serve for a term of three years under the supervision of the chief medical examiner. A county medical examiner shall be medically trained and licensed by the state of West Virginia as a physician, registered nurse, paramedic, emergency medical technician or a physician assistant, be certified in the practice of medicolegal death investigation and be of good moral character. County medical examiners are authorized to establish the fact of death, and to make investigations into all deaths in their respective counties that come within the provisions of section eight or ten of this article and shall in timely fashion record findings of an investigation using forms prescribed by the chief medical examiner. A county medical examiner may be removed from office for cause at any time by the chief medical examiner. Any vacancy in the office of county medical examiner shall be filled by the chief medical examiner. One person may be appointed to serve as county medical examiner for more than one county, and a county medical examiner need not be a resident of the county which he or she serves. If the chief medical examiner determines that it is necessary, he or she may appoint any person medically trained and licensed by the state of West Virginia as a physician, registered nurse, paramedic, emergency medical technician or a physician assistant and of good moral character to act as an assistant county medical examiner for a term of three years. An assistant shall have the same powers and duties as a county medical examiner and shall perform his or her duties under the supervision of the chief medical examiner.

(b) A county medical examiner or his or her assistant county medical examiner shall, at all times, be available to perform the duties required under this article. He or she shall, additionally, be paid a fee, as determined by the chief medical examiner, but only for the actual performance of his or her duties.

(c) County medical examiners and assistant county medical examiners are authorized to determine the cause and manner of death in any case falling within the provisions of section eight of this article, subject to the supervision of the chief medical examiner, and may exercise any of the powers attendant to the investigation of deaths.

WVC 61 - 12 - 8 §61-12-8. Certain deaths to be reported to medical examiners; failure to report deaths; investigations and reports; authority of medical examiners to administer oaths, etc., fees.
(a) When any person dies in this state from violence, or by apparent suicide, or suddenly when in apparent good health, or when unattended by a physician, or when an inmate of a public institution, or from some disease which might constitute a threat to public health, or in any suspicious, unusual or unnatural manner, the chief medical examiner, or his or her designee or the county medical examiner, or the coroner of the county in which death occurs shall be immediately notified by the physician in attendance, or if no physician is in attendance, by any law-enforcement officer having knowledge of the death, or by the funeral director, or by any other person present or having knowledge. Any physician or law-enforcement officer, funeral director or embalmer who willfully fails to comply with this notification requirement is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than five hundred dollars. Upon notice of a death under this section, the chief medical examiner, or his or her designee or the county medical examiner, shall take charge of the body and any objects or articles which, in his or her opinion, may be useful in establishing the cause or manner of death, and deliver them to the law-enforcement agency having jurisdiction in the case. In the course of an investigation of a death required to be reported by this section, the chief medical examiner shall, upon written request to any law-enforcement agency or any state or regional correctional facility, be provided with all records of the investigation of decedent's death and all records of decedent's incarceration. Where a decedent received therapeutic, corrective or medical treatment prior to death, the chief medical examiner may request in writing that any person or other entity which rendered the treatment promptly provide all records within its possession or control pertaining to the decedent and the treatment rendered: Provided, That nothing contained in this section may be construed as precluding the chief medical examiner from directly inspecting or obtaining investigation records, incarceration records or medical records related to the case. Where records of a decedent become part of the chief medical examiner's file, they are not subject to subpoena or a request for production directed to the chief medical examiner.

(b) A county medical examiner, or his or her assistant, shall make inquiries regarding the cause and manner of death, reduce his or her findings to writing, and promptly make a full report thereof to the chief medical examiner on forms prescribed by the chief medical examiner, retaining one copy of the report for his or her own office records and providing one copy to the prosecuting attorney of the county in which the death occurred.

(c) A county medical examiner or assistant medical examiner shall receive a fee for each investigation performed under the provisions of this article, including the making of required reports, which fee shall be determined by the chief medical examiner and paid out of funds appropriated therefor.

WVC 61 - 12 - 9 §61-12-9. Permits required for cremation; fee.

     (a) It is the duty of any person cremating, or causing or requesting the cremation of, the body of any dead person who died in this state, to secure a permit for the cremation from the Chief Medical Examiner, the county medical examiner or county coroner of the county wherein the death occurred. Any person who willfully fails to secure a permit for a cremation, is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than $200. A permit for cremation shall be acted upon by the Chief Medical Examiner, the county medical examiner or the county coroner after review of the circumstances surrounding the death, as indicated by the death certificate. The person requesting issuance of a permit for cremation shall pay a reasonable fee, as determined by the Chief Medical Examiner, to the county medical examiner or coroner or to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, as appropriate, for issuance of the permit.

     (b) Any person operating a crematory who does not perform a cremation pursuant to the terms of a cremation contract, or pursuant to the order of a court of competent jurisdiction, within the time contractually agreed upon, or, if the cremation contract does not specify a time period, within twenty-one days of receipt of the deceased person's remains by the crematory, whichever time is less, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

     (c) Any person operating a crematory who fails to deliver the cremated remains of a deceased person, pursuant to the terms of a cremation contract, or pursuant to the order of a court of competent jurisdiction, within the time contractually agreed upon, or, if the cremation contract does not specify a time period, within thirty-five days of receipt of the deceased person's remains by the crematory, whichever time is less, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

     (d) Any person convicted of a violation of the provisions of subsection (b) or (c) of this section shall be fined not less than $1,000 nor more than $5,000 or confined in jail for a period not to exceed six months, or both.

     (e) In any criminal proceeding alleging that a person violated the time requirements of this section, it is a defense to the charge that a delay beyond the time periods provided for in this section were caused by circumstances wholly outside the control of the defendant.

     (f) For purposes of this section, "cremation contract" means an agreement to perform a cremation, as a "cremation" is defined in subsection (g), section three, article six, chapter thirty of this code. A cremation contract is an agreement between a crematory and any authorized person or entity, including, but not limited to, the following persons in order of precedence:

     (1) The deceased, who has expressed his or her wishes regarding the disposal of their remains through a last will and testament, an advance directive or preneed funeral contract, as defined in section two, article fourteen, chapter forty-five of this code;

     (2) The surviving spouse of the deceased, unless a petition to dissolve the marriage was pending at the time of decedent's death;

     (3) An individual previously designated by the deceased as the person with the right to control disposition of the deceased's remains in a writing signed and notarized by the deceased: Provided, That no person may be designated to serve in such capacity for more than one nonrelative at any one time;

     (4) The deceased person's next of kin;

     (5) A public official charged with arranging the final disposition of an indigent deceased person or an unclaimed corpse;

     (6) A representative of an institution who is charged with arranging the final disposition of a deceased who donated his or her body to science;

     (7) A public officer required by statute to arrange the final disposition of a deceased person;

     (8) Another funeral establishment; or

     (9) An executor, administrator or other personal representative of the deceased. WVC 61 - 12 - 10 §61-12-10. When autopsies made and by whom performed; records of date investigated; copies of records and information; reporting requirements.

     (a) If in the opinion of the chief medical examiner, or of the county medical examiner of the county in which the death in question occurred, it is advisable and in the public interest that an autopsy be made, or if an autopsy is requested by either the prosecuting attorney or the judge of the circuit court or other court of record having criminal jurisdiction in that county, an autopsy shall be conducted by the chief medical examiner or his or her designee, by a member of his or her staff, or by a competent pathologist designated and employed by the chief medical examiner under the provisions of this article. For this purpose, the chief medical examiner may employ any county medical examiner who is a pathologist who holds board certification or board eligibility in forensic pathology or has completed an American Board of Pathology fellowship in forensic pathology to make the autopsies, and the fees to be paid for autopsies under this section shall be in addition to the fee provided for investigations pursuant to section eight of this article. A full record and report of the findings developed by the autopsy shall be filed with the office of the chief medical examiner by the person making the autopsy.

     (b) Within the discretion of the chief medical examiner, or of the person making the autopsy, or if requested by the prosecuting attorney of the county, or of the county where any injury contributing to or causing the death was sustained, a copy of the report of the autopsy shall be furnished to the prosecuting attorney.

     (c) The office of the chief medical examiner shall keep full, complete and properly indexed records of all deaths investigated, containing all relevant information concerning the death and the autopsy report if an autopsy report is made. Any prosecuting attorney or law-enforcement officer may secure copies of these records or information necessary for the performance of his or her official duties.

     (d) Copies of these records or information shall be furnished, upon request, to any court of law, or to the parties therein to whom the cause of death is a material issue, except where the court determines that interests in a civil matter conflict with the interests in a criminal proceeding, in which case the interests in the criminal proceeding shall take precedence. The office of chief medical examiner shall be reimbursed a reasonable rate by the requesting party for costs incurred in the production of records under this subsection and subsection (c) of this section.

     (e) The chief medical examiner is authorized to release investigation records and autopsy reports to the multidisciplinary team authorized by section three, article five-d, chapter forty-nine of this code and as authorized in subsection (h) of this section. At the direction of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources the chief medical examiner may release records and information to other state agencies when considered to be in the public interest.

     (f) Any person performing an autopsy under this section is empowered to keep and retain, for and on behalf of the chief medical examiner, any tissue from the body upon which the autopsy was performed which may be necessary for further study or consideration.

     (g) In cases of the death of any infant in the State of West Virginia where sudden infant death syndrome is the suspected cause of death and the chief medical examiner or the medical examiner of the county in which the death in question occurred considers it advisable to perform an autopsy, it is the duty of the chief medical examiner or the medical examiner of the county in which the death occurred to notify the sudden infant death syndrome program within the division of maternal and child health and to inform the program of all information to be given to the infant's parents.

     (h) If the chief medical officer determines that a drug overdose is the cause of death of a person, the chief medical examiner shall provide notice of the death to the West Virginia Controlled Substances Monitoring Program Database Review Committee established pursuant to subsection (b), section five, article nine, chapter sixty-a of this code and shall include in the notice any information relating to the cause of the fatal overdose. WVC 61 - 12 - 10 A §61-12-10a. Costs of transportation of bodies; when state will pay; amount of payment.
Whenever an examination of a body is ordered pursuant to section eight or ten of this article and the body of the deceased is transported to the central laboratory or other place of examination, the reasonable cost of the transportation shall be paid by the state out of funds appropriated to or for the use of the office of the chief medical examiner. Transportation at state expense shall be provided from the place where the body is being kept at the time the examination is ordered to the central laboratory or other place of examination, and, upon completion of the examination, to the place designated by the person entitled to possession of the body: Provided, That if the body is to be returned a greater distance than it was taken for the examination, the state shall only be obligated for the cost of return of the body equal to or less than that incurred to take the body for the examination. The payment shall be of a reasonable amount set by the office of the chief medical examiner, including, but not limited to, payment of any part of the total cost as the office of the chief medical examiner allows.

WVC 61 - 12 - 11 §61-12-11. Exhumation; when ordered.
If, in any case of sudden, violent or suspicious death, the body is buried without any investigation by the chief medical examiner, or by a county medical examiner or coroner, it is the duty of the chief medical examiner or the county medical examiner or coroner, upon being advised of this fact, to notify the prosecuting attorney of the county, who shall communicate the same to the judge of the circuit court or other court of record having jurisdiction in the county and the judge may order that the body be exhumed and an autopsy performed thereon, as provided in section ten of this article and the pertinent facts disclosed by the autopsy shall be communicated to the prosecuting attorney of the county.

WVC 61 - 12 - 12 §61-12-12. Facilities and services available to medical examiners. Pursuant to rules promulgated by the secretary of the department of health and human resources, the facilities of the office of the chief medical examiner and its laboratory, and the services of its professional staff, shall be made available to the county medical examiners and coroners in their investigations under the provisions of section eight of this article, and to the persons conducting autopsies under the provisions of section ten of this article.

WVC 61 - 12 - 13 §61-12-13. Reports and records received as evidence; copies.
Reports of investigations and autopsies, and the records thereof, on file in the office of the chief medical examiner or in the office of any county medical examiner, shall be received as evidence in any court or other proceeding, and copies of records, photographs, laboratory findings and records on file in the office of the chief medical examiner or in the office of any county medical examiner, when duly attested by the chief medical examiner or by the county medical examiner, assistant county medical examiner or coroner in whose office the same are filed, shall be received as evidence in any court or other proceeding for any purpose for which the original could be received without any proof of the official character of the person whose name is signed thereto unless objected to by counsel: Provided, That statements of witnesses or other persons and conclusions upon extraneous matters are not hereby made admissible.

WVC 61 - 12 - 14 §61-12-14. County coroners; appointment, oath, etc.; duties; fees.
It is the duty of the county commission of every county, from time to time, to appoint a coroner for the county, who shall hold the office during the pleasure of the commission and shall take the oath of office prescribed for other county officers. The county coroners shall be certified in medicolegal investigations, be continually available to perform the duties required under this article and shall be paid such fees or amounts for the services as may be fixed by the chief medical examiner.

WVC 61-12-15 §61-12-15. Invalidity of any provision or application.
If any provision or application of this article is held invalid such invalidity shall not affect other provisions or application of this article which can be given effect without the invalid provisions or application, and to this end the provisions of this article are declared to be severable.

Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2013 1st Special Session
The WV Code Online is an unofficial copy of the annotated WV Code, provided as a convenience. It has NOT been edited for publication, and is not in any way official or authoritative.


Recent legislation affecting the Code

Citation Year/Session Short Title
§61 - 5 - 17 - (Amended Code)
SENATE BILL - 90
PASSED - Regular Session

SB90 SUB1 ENR  (Uploaded - 03/25/2014)
Creating criminal offense for interfering or preventing call for assistance of emergency service personnel
§61 - 4 - 9 - (New Code)
SENATE BILL - 395
PASSED - Regular Session

SB395 SUB2 ENR  (Uploaded - 03/25/2014)
Relating to operation and oversight of certain human services benefit programs
§61 - 2 - 29 B - (Amended Code)
SENATE BILL - 397
PASSED - Regular Session

SB397 SUB1 ENR  (Uploaded - 03/25/2014)
Expanding scope of activities considered financial exploitation of elderly
§61 - 8 D- 1 - (Amended Code)
§61 - 8 D- 3 - (Amended Code)
§61 - 8 D- 4 - (Amended Code)
§61 - 8 D- 9 - (Amended Code)
HOUSE BILL - 4005
PASSED - Regular Session

HB4005 SUB ENR  (Uploaded - 03/25/2014)
Relating to criminal offenses for child abuse and child neglect
§61 - 8 C- 3 - (Amended Code)
HOUSE BILL - 4006
PASSED - Regular Session

hb4006 ENR  (Uploaded - 03/26/2014)
Relating to the possession and distribution of child pornography
§61 - 7 - 4 - (Amended Code)
HOUSE BILL - 4186
PASSED - Regular Session

hb4186 ENR  (Uploaded - 03/25/2014)
Relating to the procedures for issuing a concealed weapon license
§61 - 11 - 23 - (New Code)
HOUSE BILL - 4210
PASSED - Regular Session

HB4210 SUB ENR  (Uploaded - 03/25/2014)
Juvenile sentencing reform
§61 - 2 - 9 - (Amended Code)
§61 - 2 - 28 - (Amended Code)
HOUSE BILL - 4445
PASSED - Regular Session

hb4445 ENR  (Uploaded - 03/25/2014)
hb4445 ENR 2  (Uploaded - 03/25/2014)
Modifying the definition of "battery" and "domestic battery"
Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2013 1st Special Session
The WV Code Online is an unofficial copy of the annotated WV Code, provided as a convenience. It has NOT been edited for publication, and is not in any way official or authoritative.
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