Inquest Law and Legal Definition

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. Usually an autopsy by a qualified medical examiner from the coroner's office will be conducted as part of the inquest. 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.

In the rare instances when a jury is used, the jury's verdict generally includes the date of death when known; the place of death; the circumstances surrounding the death and the cause of death when known. Verdicts may identify parties responsible for homicides or assign blame to negligent parties in accidents. Juries sometimes recommend further investigation by the police to identify and apprehend parties responsible for homicides or accidental deaths caused by negligence or malfeasance.

Inquest is also a a term used in New York for a hearing by a surrogate judge on the validity of a will.

The following is a Louisiana law dealing with inquests:

Art. 101. Abolition of coroner's jury and inquest; investigation by coroner

  • The coroner's jury and inquest are abolished.
  • The coroner shall conduct an investigation concerning the manner and cause of any death when informed that death has resulted from violence or accident, or under suspicious circumstances.
  • The coroner may conduct an investigation concerning the medical aspects of any case that may involve medical evidence and in which there is a reasonable probability that a criminal statute has been violated and shall do so when ordered by the court. This order may be issued ex parte by the court either on its own motion or on application by the district attorney.