TITLE 23
Health and Safety

CHAPTER 23-4
Office of State Medical Examiners

SECTION 23-4-7


§ 23-4-7 Reporting of certain deaths required – Violations – Penalties.

(a)(1) Where any person shall die in any manner to suggest the possibility of a criminal act or as the result of violence or apparent suicide, or from a criminal abortion or in any suspicious or unusual manner, it shall be the duty of any person having knowledge of those deaths to immediately notify the police of the city or town where the body of the deceased person lies or to notify the office of state medical examiners. The same procedure shall be followed upon discovery of anatomical material suspected of being or determined to be a part of a human body.

(2) Any person who willfully neglects or refuses to report that death or who without an order from an agent of the office of medical examiners willfully touches, removes, or disturbs the body of that dead person, or willfully touches, removes, or disturbs the clothing or any article upon or near that body, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

(b) If any person buries or causes to be buried the dead body of a person supposed to have come to a violent death before giving notice as stated in subsection (a) and before inquiry is made into the manner and circumstances of the death, that person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

(c) When any person may appear to have met death when unattended by a physician, or in any unnatural manner, or as the apparent result of the negligence of another person, or as the consequence of any physical or toxic injury incurred while employed, or from the use of any addictive or unidentifiable chemical agent, or from accidental hypothermia, or from an infectious agent capable of spreading an epidemic within the state, it shall be the duty of any physician, law enforcement officer, funeral director, hospital official having knowledge of the death, or of any other person having responsibility for burial or cremation of the deceased person to notify the office of the state medical examiners. In the case of any prisoner committed by law to the custody of the department of corrections or in the department of mental health, retardation, and hospitals who dies or in the case of a person who dies while in the custody of the state police or local police departments, the person charged with the responsibility for that custody shall have the duty to immediately notify the office of the state medical examiners. Any person charged with the responsibility of notifying the office of state medical examiners of any of the deaths stated in the first sentence of this subsection who neglects to give that notice shall upon conviction be guilty of a misdemeanor.

(d) If an agent of the office of state medical examiners is of the opinion that a death was caused by the act of neglect of some person other than the deceased, he or she shall at once notify the attorney general, and the police of the city or town where the body was found or in which it lies. If any person shall be arrested and charged with causing any death by the act of neglect, the person so arrested shall be entitled to receive a copy of the record of the autopsy, upon written request delivered to the attorney general.

(e) Where any person age sixty-five (65) years or older may appear to have died from accidental hypothermia, the death shall be reported to the department of elderly affairs by the state medical examiner or when any person, under the age of eighteen (18) shall die, the physician signing the death certificate shall report the death to the state medical examiner's office within twenty-four (24) hours of the death.

(f) Any person who violates any of the provisions of subsection (a) or (b) of this section and does so with the intention of concealing a crime shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, shall be imprisoned for a term of not more than five (5) years or fined ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or both.

History of Section.
(P.L. 1973, ch. 169, § 1; P.L. 1982, ch. 333, § 1; P.L. 1991, ch. 184, § 1; P.L. 1996, ch. 163, § 1.)