The Coroner's Office is responsible for determining cause, manner and circumstance of death under guidelines established by the Georgia Death Investigation Act. The coroner works closely with local law enforcement and the GBI medical examiner to make this determination.
The "cause" is the medical reason the person dies, and the "manner" is whether the person died as a result of a homicide, suicide, accident, natural causes, or in an undetermined fashion.
The Coroner's duties as required by law can be divided into three major categories: investigative, judicial and administrative.
Any death that is unexpected, unexplainable or unattended by a physician, including homicide, suicide and accidental death, falls under a coroner's jurisdiction for investigation. Autopsies are not mandatory to determine cause of death except in situations where death cannot be reasonably explained or the death is a child under the age of 7.
The coroner performs scene investigations, medical history reviews and identifications of the deceased as well as conducts or arranges for notification of the family, and arranges for an autopsy if necessary. The coroner is also responsible for the safeguard of personal affects found on the deceased, and their release to the next of kin or appropriate legal representative.
The coroner's investigation is independent of the police and/or fire department but is done in conjunction with both departments.
All coroners and deputy coroners in Georgia must initially take a 40-hour training course at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center. They are then required to complete 24 hours of re-certification training every year on various topics ranging from scene investigation, photography, blood spatter analysis and other similar topics.
Coroners are also required to sit on the Child Abuse Protocol Committee to review cases. They must also sit on the Child Fatality Review subcommittee and review all child deaths regardless of cause to determine if the death meets the criteria for review by the committee or further investigation by the proper investigative agency. They must then complete the paperwork and forward it to the proper local and state offices.