Coroner Law and Legal Definition

A coroner is a county officer whose duty it is to determine the cause of death of anyone who dies violently, suddenly, or suspiciously. It is his duty also, when the sheriff is unavailable, to serve all the writs and process which the sheriff is usually bound to serve.

To determine the cause of death, the coroner or one of his/her staff must examine the body at the scene of such a death and make a report. When the cause of death is undetermined or not certified by an attending physician, the coroner will hold an inquisition or inquest, sometimes with the assistance of a jury, over the body of any person who may have come to a violent or suspicious death, or who has died in prison. In rare cases when the cause of death still is undetermined, the coroner may hold a hearing as part of the inquest. A coroner has the power to summon people to the inquest.