Ohio Coroner

An ordinance of the Northwest Territory in 1788 provided for the appointment of a Coroner for each county to serve a term of two years. Such appointment was to be made by the Governor. The duties of the Coroner included holding inquests over the bodies of all persons found within the county who were believed to have died by criminal violence or casualty. He was also to have the same powers as a sheriff.

The constitution of the state of Ohio enacted in 1802 provided that a Coroner should be elected in each county to serve for a term of two years. A statute enacted in 1805 stated the duties and authority of the Coroner and provide for remuneration on a fee basis. In 1831 state legislation directed the Coroner to return a report of his findings in an inquest to the Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas.

Constitutional changes of 1851 and 1912 did not affect the Office of the Coroner. It was not until 1921 that the Coroner was empowered to perform autopsies and then only upon authorization by the County Prosecutor. In the same act, the Coroner was granted discretionary powers toward holding formal inquest, and he was directed to investigate deaths supposed to have been caused by unlawful or suspicious means. In the same year, a bill was enacted requiring that in counties with a population of a hundred thousand or more, no person should be eligible for election to the Office of Coroner except a physician of good standing in his profession. In 1937, the same qualifications for eligibility were established for Coroners in all Ohio counties. In 1936, the term of office was increased to four years. In 1945, by act of legislature, the statutes governing the office of Coroner were revised to the extent that the Ohio law in this respect is now considered an example for providing modern medicolegal investigation in a democracy. Some of these revisions include: specific definitions of duties and authority; remuneration by salary rather than fees for all Coroners; authorizing a plan whereby Coroners in counties without established pathological services may obtain same from counties with such facilities at a fee commensurate with the actual cost of time and materials used.