State law requires the Coroner to inquire into and determine the circumstances, manner and cause of certain deaths, including any suspected homicide, suicide, accidental death, natural death where no physician is available to sign a death certificate, or the physician is unwilling or prohibited from doing so. A forensic pathologist performs all exams.
In November of 2019, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office received accreditation by the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners.
During this time you may be wondering:
Why is the Sheriff’s Office involved in the death of my loved one?
Deaths which fit a certain criteria are mandated by law to be investigated by the Sheriff-Coroner’s Office (CA Government Code Sections 27490 - 27512). This criterion includes but is not limited to, deaths related to accidents, suicide, homicide, those that are suspicious in nature, as well as those deaths where the decedent’s regular doctor is unable to state the cause of death.
Where is my loved one being taken?
Your loved one will be taken to the Sheriff’s Office Coroner facility temporarily until which time he/she is released to your mortuary.
Can I come see him/her?
Visitation of your loved one should be arranged at the mortuary of your choosing.
What do I do now?
Contact a mortuary or cremation service of your choice and advise them of what has transpired. They can provide further assistance in the funeral arrangements.
Is an autopsy always performed?
No. If a death fits a certain criteria the Pathologist may elect to conduct only an external examination and a review of the investigation and medical records.
Why are autopsies performed?
Autopsies are performed to assist in determining the cause of death in such cases as those mentioned above and in which the decedent’s regular doctor is unable to state the cause of death. Small pieces of each organ are routinely retained on each case for future testing so that the decedent can be released to the funeral home without significant delay. On rare occasion, a whole organ (typically the brain or heart) may need to be retained for specialized studies and/or consultation. In these cases, the family will be immediately notified so that arrangements for the disposition of this organ can be made following testing.
Is there a charge for these services?
There is no charge for the autopsy. A $300 Coroner transportation fee will be arranged through your mortuary. An additional $30/day storage fee will be charged beginning 5 days after the autopsy or notification of next of kin.
When can I have the funeral?
Following the examination, your mortuary will provide you with a more specific time frame. Generally, examinations are performed within a few days of the decedent’s passing.
How do I make funeral arrangements?
When you feel you are able, you should contact a funeral home or cremation service of your choice. It may help to talk with friends or family who have also had to make funeral arrangements. All funeral homes are required by law to quote services and prices over the phone. After you have made your selection, inform the funeral home that the Sheriff-Coroner’s Office is involved. You will be asked to sign a release form authorizing the funeral home to act for you with the Sheriff-Coroner’s Office.
How do I recover personal property?
Personal property of the deceased may be claimed at the Coroner’s Office by appointment or released to your funeral home with your authorization. The next of kin must sign in person, or authorize another person in writing, to receive the decedent’s property. The normal order for next of kin is spouse, adult child, parent, brother or sister.
If you have any questions regarding decedent property, please contact the Sheriff’s Office Coroner’s Unit at 831-454-7790. Personal property held for safekeeping is subject to disposal if not claimed within 60 days of the decedent’s death.
How can I find out the cause of death?
In most cases the cause of death will be determined within a few days. Cases involving blood tests or microscopic examinations to assist in determining
the cause of death may take longer, possibly up to four months. These tests do not usually require the Sheriff-Coroner’s Office to hold the deceased, so the family may proceed with funeral plans.
How do I obtain copies of records?
Certified copies of death certificates are available through your funeral home or directly from County Vital Records (831-763-8430); a fee is charged for each certified copy. A copy of the Pathologist and toxicology reports may be obtained, if completed, from the Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Office Records Division.
You can mail your request to:
Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Office Record’s Division
5200 Soquel Ave.
Santa Cruz, CA 95062
The Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Office Records Division may also be reached by phone at 831-454-7600.
Information for mortuaries:
Generally, releases occur Monday through Friday, excluding holidays, between the hours of 8:30 am to 11:30 am, and 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm. Please call ahead to ensure someone will be available to meet you.
The Santa Cruz Coroner Request for Release of Remains form must be signed by next of kin prior to release. If property is to be released to the mortuary representative, a secondary Property Release form must be signed by next of kin. The signed forms may be faxed or emailed prior to arrival.
Death certificates will not be transferred until after release. Reportable deaths requiring a record number will not be reviewed until the death certificate has been medically attested and accepted in EDRS.
2019 Annual Data Sheet
2018 Annual Data Sheet
- Santa Cruz County Coroner 831.454.7790
- Santa Cruz County Coroner fax 831.454.7799
- Death Certificates-Recorder's Office 831.454.2800
- Victim Assistance-District Attorney 831.454.2400
- Public Administrator-District Attorney 831.454.3532
- A Coroner Investigator is available during business hours at 831.454.7790. If you have an emergency, please call 911.