Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1972 NO. 1 > Jan 10 1972

(1) A prosecuting attorney of a fourth through ninth class county, in his separate capacity as county coroner under RCW 36.16.030, may appoint one or more deputy coroners with the consent of his board of county commissioners.(2) The compensation of any persons so appointed as deputy coroners is to be fixed by the board of county commissioners.(3) There is no legal requirement that a person appointed to serve as a deputy county coroner in a fourth class county be admitted to the practice of law in this state.

AGO 1992 NO. 6 > May 20 1992

RCW 70.58.390 authorizes the issuance of a presumptive death certificate if there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to indicate that a person has died as a result of an accident or natural disaster.  A presumptive death certificate could not issue pursuant to RCW 70.58.390 if the only evidence is a suicide note and a missing body.

AGLO 1975 NO. 8 > Jan 31 1975

(1) A vacancy in the office of county sheriff created by a resignation does not constitute an "incapacity" within the meaning of RCW 36.24.010 so as to require the county coroner to perform the duties of the sheriff until the vacancy is filled by the county commissioners. (2) If, upon the occurrence of a vacancy in the office of county sheriff, the superior court of the county were to appoint an acting sheriff under the provisions of RCW 36.28.090, its action would be entitled to a presumption of validity and even if ultimately established to be invalid, it would nevertheless establish the appointee as the defacto county sheriff.

AGO 1991 NO. 10 > Mar 13 1991

RCW 69.50.505(f)(1) provides that forfeited property may be retained for use by a law enforcement agency of the state.  A coroner does not act as a law enforcement agency of the state.  Therefore, a coroner is not entitled to use a motor vehicle forfeited pursuant to RCW 69.50.505(f)(1).

AGO 1998 NO. 11 > Oct 28 1998

The county coroner or equivalent officer has discretion to decide whether to issue a certificate of presumptive death as to a person whose body has not been found but who may be presumed to have drowned in the waters of the county or in contiguous waters as a result of an accident or natural disaster; the officer's decision must take into account where the person was last seen and where the events occurred which probably caused the person's death, in addition to such other factors as may be relevant.

AGO 1979 NO. 13 > May 25 1979

The jurisdiction of a county coroner under the first clause of RCW 68.08.010 extends to the body of a deceased person who, although not physically seen by a physician or other medical practitioner within the 36 hours preceding death, was generally under a physician's care for a number of years prior to his death and died ". . . under circumstances which the family physician considers consistent with the serious medical condition with which the deceased had been previously treated for a number of years."

AGO 1980 NO. 15 > Jun 20 1980

Under the applicable state statutes relating to the issuance of death certificates (RCW 70.58.160-70.58.180) a county coroner does not have the authority to issue a presumptive death certificate based on circumstantial evidence where no body has been found

AGO 1977 NO. 22 > Nov 10 1977

The provisions of RCW 36.24.130 and 36.24.140 do not authorize a county to probate the estate of the person who has died without heirs or to place to the credit of the county other assets of the decedent except ". . . money or other property which may be found upon the dead body . . ." 

AGLO 1980 NO. 22 > Jun 23 1980

(1) The Island County auditor may not accept filings for the office of coroner to be placed on the 1980 primary and general election ballot solely on the basis of an assumption or anticipation that Island County will be reclassified as a third class county following completion of the 1980 federal census. (2) In the absence of reclassification of Island County on the basis of the federal census prior to the candidates' filing period set forth in RCW 29.18.030, it would be a prerequisite to placing the office of coroner on the ballot that the county commissioners first do what is contemplated by RCW 36.13.020, et seq., in order to cause Island County to become a third, instead of a fourth, class county.

AGLO 1976 NO. 30 > Apr 23 1976

(1) Notwithstanding § 1, chapter 86, Laws of 1973, Ex. Sess., the prosecuting attorney of a fourth class county is still required to serve as ex officio county coroner. (2) Such prosecuting attorney is authorized to appear and defend the county in an action involving alleged misconduct by the coroner or his deputies.

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