The Ventura County Medical Examiner's mission is to provide respectful, professional, accurate and timely death investigation services to all people in Ventura County, while complying with applicable California statutes.
Our purpose is to determine accurately the cause, manner and circumstances of deaths that fall under our jurisdiction as defined by California statutes, to identify decedents, to locate and notify next-of-kin, in a compassionate and timely fashion.
What We Do
We begin by taking initial reports of death from reporting parties such as police, health care providers, families and funeral directors. These initial reports are taken by medical examiner investigators, usually by phone. The investigator decides whether the death falls under Medical Examiner's jurisdiction and initiates death investigations when appropriate. The investigator also decides how extensive an investigation should be. This varies based on findings that unfold during an investigation. Investigations may be simple, with a few phone calls to verify an expected death from a known terminal condition. They may be complex, including a thorough death scene investigation, property protection, multiple interviews. They may also include autopsy, identification procedures, location and notification of next-of-kin, consultations with other experts, and extensive laboratory testing. As needed, the investigator may consult with one or both of the physician medical examiners who may decide an autopsy is needed or give other investigative guidance.
Eventually, death certificates are generated, investigative reports and autopsy reports are prepared, and testimony in courts is given when needed.
We employ two physician forensic pathologists (who also act as department administrators), five investigators who provide 24-hour County coverage, one forensic pathology technician, one or two part-time weekend/holiday forensic pathology technician, and one secretary.
Users of Medical Examiner Services
Major users of the information collected and services provided by the Medical Examiner are families of the decedent; the funeral/mortuary industry; the criminal justice system (District Attorney, Sheriff, Public Defender, city police departments, private defense attorneys; civil attorneys; the civil courts system; the public health system at the local, state and federal level; the military; physicians and the health care delivery system; insurance companies, and cause of death researchers.
Our primary services include determining the cause, manner and circumstances of deaths that occur within Ventura County under unknown or suspicious circumstances and documenting those findings. We document findings by reports, photographs and collected evidence. We also identify deceased individuals, notify relatives of deaths; protect the immediate property on or about a body; initiate the death certificate, and certify the death and provide forensic consultative services concerning investigated deaths.
California law requires us to investigate deaths that occur from unknown causes or under suspicious circumstances. We then decide which deaths to investgate. Not all deaths require a legal investigation. Immediate reporting of the above listed deaths assures compliance with the statutory provisions of California Government Code 27491
and Health and Safety Code 102850
and Code 103000
Deaths Reportable to the Coroner
The following categories of deaths are immediately reportable to the Medical Examiner:
- Suspected or known homicides, suicides, and accidents
- Deaths involving suspected or known criminal activity, or poisonings
- Deaths related to substance abuse
- Deaths occurring either in jail or in police custody
- Deaths occurring at state mental hospitals
- Deaths related to occupational diseases or hazards
- Deaths occurring outside health care facilities*
- Deaths in which the deceased was not attended by a physician for the for the 20 days prior to dying
- Deaths in which a physician can not reasonably give the cause of death (unwillingness does not apply)
- Deaths involving suspected contagious diseases constituting a public hazard
- Deaths of unidentified persons
- Deaths occurring within 24 hours of hospital admission
- Deaths suspected to be from sudden infant death syndrome
* Medical Examiner policy is to assure that minimally attended deaths are reviewed.
We initiate an investigation when we are notified of a death that comes under our jurisdiction. We may do the investigation by phone or a Medical Examiner Investigator may need to travel to the scene of the death to conduct the investigation. The Medical Examiner Investigator may determine to release the body from the death scene directly to a mortuary or to have it transported to the Ventura County Morgue facility for additional investigation. Our investigation to determine cause and manner of death may include interviewing witnesses, friends, relatives, and health care providers. We may examine the death scene and surroundings to collect and preserve evidence. The investigation may also require a physical examination of the body or autopsy, and may require laboratory tests of tissue or bodily fluids.
Choosing a Mortuary/Funeral Home
Mortuaries are listed under Funeral Directors in the local telephone book and can be found on the internet. A Funeral Guide
lists local funeral homes. Prices for essentially the same services may vary from one mortuary to another. Some mortuaries may wave certain fees for certain types of deaths, such as infants.
Any personal property recovered by a Medical Examiner Investigator at a death scene may be claimed, under most circumstances, by the next of kin during normal office hours, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Resources and Information
You may obtain documents from the following sources:
- Death certificate: The funeral home, or the Public Health Office of Vital Records, 805-981-5172.
- Autopsy report: Call us at 805-641-4400.
- A police report from the police agency or Sheriff Department investigating a death, accident or crime.
- Medical records from the hospital or clinic where the deceased was taken. Note: It takes varying amounts of time to obtain death certificates, medical records, autopsy and police reports. Please ask officials when you can expect them.
- You may file for social security benefits by contacting the Social Security Administration.
- If the deceased was a veteran and was collecting veteran's benefits, contact the Veterans Administration Regional Office. The mortuary you select will assist with obtaining burial benefits from the Veterans Administration.
- Notify the insurance agent and the bank of the person who has died.
- If a criminal case is pending, contact the district attorney in the county where the crime occurred for more information.
- The families of violent crime victims should contact the District Attorney's Office Victim Assistance Division at 805-654-3622.
Additional Resources California State Coroner's Association National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME)
Identification and Viewing:
Contrary to popular belief, it is not required or usually necessary for the next of kin to come to the Medical Examiner Coroner's facility to visually identify the decedent. We understand you may wish to see the decedent as soon as possible. In consideration of this, we will work with the funeral home or cremation service of choice to expedite the release of the decedent for viewing purposes. You can then work directly with them to arrange for the service.
If the deceased's estate does not have sufficient funds to cover the cost of the disposition of the remains and you are unable to assume the financial responsibility, you may apply for assistance from the Health Care Agency's Public Administrator's Office
. Your funeral director or cremation service director will be able to assist you in this process.
Extent of Investigation by the Medical Examiner
The Medical Examiner Coroner has the authority to determine the extent of inquiry into reportable deaths. Not all Coroner investigations include autopsies. The Medical Examiner may authorize attending physicians to certify reportable deaths that are clearly from natural causes.
3291 Loma Vista Rd.
Ventura, CA 93003