Accessing Coroner's Reports
Not all of the deaths we investigate require us to complete an autopsy, however, if an autopsy is completed the Medical Examiner assigned to the case will complete an Autopsy Report. Autopsy reports can take several months for completion, and unless restricted by policy (see Public records Act Request policy below), a copy may be obtained from the Coroner’s Office upon request.
Not all cases we investigate require toxicology tests, but when appropriate the tests are completed and a laboratory report is submitted to the Coroner’s Office for review. Although the information contained within the Toxicology Report is also contained within the Autopsy Report, it is a separate report that unless restricted by policy, (see Public Records Act Request policy below), may be obtained in the same manner and at the same time as the Autopsy Report.
Requesting a copy of an Autopsy or Toxicology report
Unless restricted by policy, (see Public Records Act Request policy below), Autopsy Reports and Toxicology Reports may be requested via the county's Public Records Request Portal.
Public Records Act Request Policy
The California Legislature has declared that access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state. The California Public Records Act (PRA), Government Code Sections 6250 to 6270, requires the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office to make public records available for inspection by the public and to provide copies upon request. The Coroner’s Office has established the following guidelines to ensure that all persons are afforded the opportunity to use their right to access the public records being held by the Coroner’s Office.
- What are “Public Records”
“Public Records” include any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used or retained by the Coroner’s Office regardless of physical form or characteristics. “Writing” means handwriting, typewriting, printing, photo-stating, photocopying, photographing, transmitting by electronic mail or facsimile, and every other means of recording upon any tangible thing, any form of communication or representation, including letters, words, pictures, sounds or symbols or any combination thereof, and any record thereby created, regardless of the manner in which the record has been stored.
- Request for Inspection
Any member of the public, including the media and elected officials, may access unrestricted records of this department by submitting a written and signed request for each record sought and paying any associated fees (Government Code § 6253). In accordance with the Public Records Act, the Department is not required to create records that do not otherwise exist in order to accommodate a request under the Act.
There is no specific form that must be used to request records, nor is there any language that must be used when making a request. Requests may be made orally or in writing; either in person, through the mail, via e-mail, over the telephone or via our Public Records Portal. All requests will be entered into our Public Records Portal for tracking purposes. Records will be made available in their original form or by a true and correct copy. If the record contains any confidential personal or medical information that is exempt under the California Public Records Act, individual privacy rights under the United States Constitution, individual privacy rights under the California State Constitution, or any Federal or State confidentiality or medical information privacy statute, the protected information will be redacted from the public record prior to inspection.
If a request includes documents which are not readily available in an acceptable format, the Coroner’s Office may require additional time to present the documents for inspection. Under normal circumstances such documents will be presented for inspection within ten (10) calendar days from the date the request is received by the Coroner’s Office. In unusual circumstances, the 10-day time limit may be extended by law for an additional fourteen (14) days. Any such delay will be communicated to the requester in writing setting forth the reason for the time extension.
- Records that are Exempt from Inspection
In balancing the public’s right to access public records with other rights and interests, including the individual right of privacy and the need for the Coroner’s Office to be able to competently perform its duties, the legislature has established certain categories of records that may be exempt from public disclosure under specified circumstances. These include records that may consist of or include the following information:
- Certain personnel records;
- Investigative records;
- Confidential legal advice;
- Records prepared in connection with litigation;
- Real estate appraisals;
- Native American graves;
- Cemeteries and sacred places;
- Archaeological site information;
- Trade secrets;
- Communications with the Governor’s Office; and
- Information that is confidential pursuant to other state or federal statutes.
- Photographs/Video Recordings
Any and all photographs or video recordings of the body, or any portion of the body, of a deceased person taken by or for the coroner at the scene of death or in the course of a post mortem examination or autopsy are not available for inspection at any time pursuant to Section 129 of the California Code of Civil Procedure. Anyone wishing to inspect or obtain copies of photographs will be required to obtain a court order as outlined in Section 129.