Office of the
Medical Examiner

Office of the Medical Examiner FAQs

What does the Medical Examiner's Office do? The San Joaquin County Medical Examiner's Office (OME) is the agency responsible for investigating about one-half of all the deaths in the county. The office performs medico-legal investigations for legal and public health purposes under authority of state laws. By far, the largest percentage of deaths in the county are natural deaths. Just because an investigator investigates a death does not mean there is a belief that a crime has been committed. Part of the Medical Examiner’s legal responsibility is to positively identify the deceased, to notify the next-of-kin or legal representative, and to protect the estate of the deceased until it can be turned over to the legal heirs.
Why has the body been taken away? There are many reasons why a loved one will be taken to the Medical Examiner’s Office: a private physician cannot sign the death certificate; the deceased did not have a physician or it has been too long since the last visit; the death was possibly due to accident, suicide, homicide or an unknown cause, or the person died alone.
Where will my relative/friend be taken? He/she will be taken to the Medical Examiner’s Forensic Pathology Facility located within the San Joaquin County Medical Examiner's Office Complex in French Camp.
What about personal property? The Medical Examiner’s Investigator may have to take personal property until it can be released to the legal next-of-kin or representative. Medication and other evidence may be taken that will be examined during the investigation. Probate laws are clear who has a right to a person’s estate. Absent a will or durable power of attorney, the line of succession is spouse, child, parent, and then sibling. Evidence other than medication will be returned at the conclusion of the investigation. Personal property may be picked up from the Medical Examiner’s Office during normal business hours.
Is viewing allowed? No. The Medical Examiner’s Office does not have the capability to allow for viewing of the body. Family should make arrangements with a funeral home or mortuary for viewing at their facility.
Will an autopsy be performed? It is the legal duty of the Medical Examiner to determine the cause of death. Autopsies are not always necessary. The Medical Examiner’s Pathologist will make a determination after a review of all supporting records whether an autopsy is needed to establish the cause of death. It is not something that can be determined by the OME Investigator at the scene.
How long will my relative/friend be at the Medical Examiner’s Office?

Typically, a body is ready for release to a funeral home within 48-96 hours. The funeral home or mortuary of your choice will coordinate the release on your behalf.

Is there a fee for Medical Examiner Services?
How do I get a Death Certificate?
How can I get a copy of the Medical Examiner Report?
Updated August 05, 2022