Art. 49.10: Autopsies and Tests

(a) At his discretion, a justice of the peace may obtain the opinion of a county health officer or a physician concerning the necessity of obtaining an autopsy in order to determine or confirm the nature and cause of a death.

(b) The commissioners court of the county shall pay a reasonable fee for a consultation obtained by a justice of the peace under Subsection (a) of this article.

(c) Except as required by Section 264.514, Family Code, for each body that is the subject of an inquest by a justice of the peace, the justice, in the justice's discretion, shall:

(1) direct a physician to perform an autopsy; or

(2) certify that no autopsy is necessary.

(d) A justice of the peace may not order a person to perform an autopsy on the body of a deceased person whose death was caused by Asiatic cholera, bubonic plague, typhus fever, or smallpox. A justice of the peace may not order a person to perform an autopsy on the body of a deceased person whose death was caused by a communicable disease during a public health disaster.

(e) A justice of the peace shall order an autopsy performed on a body if:

(1) the justice determines that an autopsy is necessary to determine or confirm the nature and cause of death;

(2) the deceased was a child younger than six years of age and the death is determined under Section 264.514, Family Code, to be unexpected or the result of abuse or neglect; or

(3) directed to do so by the district attorney, criminal district attorney, or, if there is no district or criminal district attorney, the county attorney.

(f) A justice of the peace shall request a physician to perform the autopsy.

(g) The commissioners court shall pay a reasonable fee to a physician performing an autopsy on the order of a justice of the peace, if a fee is assessed.

(h) The commissioners court shall pay a reasonable fee for the transportation of a body to a place where an autopsy can be performed under this article if a justice of the peace orders the body to be transported to the place.

(i) If a justice of the peace determines that a complete autopsy is unnecessary to confirm or determine the cause of death, the justice may order a physician to take or remove from a body a sample of body fluids, tissues, or organs in order to determine the nature and cause of death. Except as provided by Subsection (j) of this article, a justice may not order any person other than a physician to take samples from the body of a deceased person.

(j) A justice of the peace may order a physician, qualified technician, paramedic, chemist, registered professional nurse, or licensed vocational nurse to take a specimen of blood from the body of a person who died as the result of a motor vehicle accident if the justice determines that circumstances indicate that the person may have been driving while intoxicated.

(k) A justice of the peace may order an investigative or laboratory test to determine the identity of a deceased person. After proper removal of a sample from a body, a justice may order any person specially trained in identification work to complete any tests necessary to determine the identity of the deceased person.

(l) A medical examination on an unidentified person shall include the following information to enable a timely and accurate identification of the person:

(1) all available fingerprints and palm prints;

(2) dental charts and radiographs (X-rays) of the person's teeth;

(3) frontal and lateral facial photographs with scale indicated;

(4) notation and photographs, with scale indicated, of a significant scar, mark, tattoo, or item of clothing or other personal effect found with or near the body;

(5) notation of antemortem medical conditions;

(6) notation of observations pertinent to the estimation of time of death; and

(7) precise documentation of the location of burial of the remains.

(m) A medical examination on an unidentified person may include the following information to enable a timely and accurate identification of the person:

(1) full body radiographs (X-rays); and

(2) hair specimens with roots.

(n) On discovering the body or body part of a deceased person in the circumstances described by Article 49.04(a)(3)(B), the justice of the peace may request the aid of a forensic anthropologist in the examination of the body or body part. The forensic anthropologist must hold a doctoral degree in anthropology with an emphasis in physical anthropology. The forensic anthropologist shall attempt to establish whether the body or body part is of a human or animal, whether evidence of childbirth, injury, or disease exists, and the sex, race, age, stature, and physical anomalies of the body or body part. The forensic anthropologist may also attempt to establish the cause, manner, and time of death.

(o) If a person is injured in one county and dies as a result of those injuries, with the death occurring in another county, the attorney representing the state in the prosecution of felonies in the county in which the injury occurred may request a justice of the peace in the county in which the death occurred to order an autopsy be performed on the body of the deceased person. If the justice of the peace orders that the autopsy be performed, the county in which the injury occurred shall reimburse the county in which the death occurred.

Comments

Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 529, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987; Subsec. (e) amended by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 255, Sec. 4, eff. Sept. 1, 1995; amended by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 878, Sec. 3, eff. Sept. 1, 1995; amended by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1022, Sec. 102, eff. Sept. 1, 1997; amended by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1301, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997; Subsecs. (l) to (n) added by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 656, Sec. 4, eff. Sept. 1, 1997; Subsec. (c) amended by Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 1071, Sec. 1, eff. August 30, 1999; Subsec. (j) amended by Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 1132, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1999; Subsec. (n) amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 240, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001; Subsec. (o) added by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 237, Sec. 1, eff. May 22, 2001; Subsec. (d) amended by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 198, Sec. 2.190, eff. Sept. 1, 2003; Subsec. (n) amended by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 826, Sec. 4, eff. Sept. 1, 2003; Subsec. (n) amended by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 1295, Sec. 4, eff. Sept. 1, 2003.