Frequently Asked Questions

Coroner's Office

Why is a body brought to the Coroner's office?

The remains of deceased persons are brought to the Coroner's Office because Ohio Law (ORC 313) requires the Coroner investigate deaths of persons caused by criminal violence, accident, or suicide, dying suddenly (when unattended by a physician for a reasonable period of time), in detention, when under 2 years of age, or in any suspicious or unusual manner. Another reason that a body may be brought to the Coroner's Office is that the identity of the deceased or next-of-kin is unknown.

Does the Coroner need permission from the next-of-kin for an autopsy?

Ohio Law (ORC 2108.52) provides that the Coroner does not need permission for an autopsy. A family may object to an autopsy because of religious beliefs, as stated in section 313.13.1 of the Ohio Revised Code. In this case the Coroner will review the matter and determine whether it is absolutely necessary to perform an autopsy over the family's objections. If after careful review the Coroner determines an autopsy is required, the family may ask the court to intervene. These legal proceedings may take several days and will delay the release of the body to the funeral director. It is important for family members to inform the coroner's office immediately if they have any objection to an autopsy since most begin as soon as the body arrives at the coroner's office.

What is an autopsy and is there a charge?

An autopsy is a medical examination by a forensic pathologist of the body of a deceased person for the purpose of determining the cause and manner of death and recovering evidence from the body which might be needed in a criminal or civil legal action. A record is made of the autopsy findings of the autopsy including microscopic and toxicological laboratory tests. These laboratory tests are conducted after the release of the body for burial. There is no charge to the next-of-kin for an autopsy or any of the tests which may be conducted by the Coroner.

How and when will the body be released?

Routinely, the body is released to a licensed funeral director within 48 hours. The next-of-kin should notify a funeral director who, in turn, will arrange to secure a written release from the next-of-kin, arrange transportation for the deceased to the funeral home and obtain the necessary documents for burial or cremation.

How can a funeral director be selected?

Most often, the next-of-kin discusses this with other family members, clergy, or friends. The Coroner is prohibited from recommending a funeral director. 

How can the personal effects and clothing of the deceased be obtained?

The clothing and personal effects are inventoried upon receipt of the body.  Under most circumstances they are released with the body to the funeral director. In cases of homicides, vehicular accidents, and other situations where examination or retention of the clothing or personal effects is necessary, they will be held by the Coroner's Office or the investigating agency.

When will the autopsy report be completed and how can I obtain a copy?

The amount of time required to complete an autopsy report is 12-14 weeks. In other cases, it can be longer depending on the type of extra testing and investigation needed to certify cause and manner of death.  In Hamilton County, the autopsy report is a public record (excluding unadjudicated homicides) and can be obtained by sending a written request and self-addressed, stamped envelope to:

Hamilton County Coroner
4477 Carver Woods Drive
Blue Ash, OH  45242

The request must contain the name of the deceased and the date of death. There is no charge to the primary next-of-kin. There is a $.25 per page fee for all others. The Office may only accept, by mail, a certified check, money order or business check. Cash is accepted when the request is made in person.

When and how can I obtain the death certificate?

The death certificate will be prepared within 10 days after the date of death. If the cause of death is not immediately identified a "pending" death certificate will be issued and a supplemental form identifying the cause of death will be issued as soon as possible. The "pending" certificate will allow the family to begin processing of the estate. A copy of the death certificate may be obtained by contacting your funeral home or the Bureau of Vital Records located nearest the place of death.

The Coroner's staff of forensic pathologists is available to discuss their autopsy findings with the family. The investigative staff is available to assist whenever possible. Your family physician, clergy, or funeral director may be able to answer many questions for you.


The legal next of kin is one of the following, in this order:


Adult Child/Children




Where can I find a release form?

You can find the release form here: 


RELEASE FORM (Spanish).pdf

Crime Laboratory

Do you have any job openings in your laboratory?

Our laboratory employs about 25 scientists, and two evidence technicians (administrative specialists). Turnover is low but with our new facility we have room for expansion. Openings are advertised on the websites of professional organizations most often viewed by forensic scientists. These include AAFS, ASCLD, MAFS and other sites depending on the discipline of the vacant position. For example, a need for a firearms examiner will be posted to the AFTE site or a toxicologist to the SOFT employment listing. Typically, we receive 50-120 applications for an opening but only interview a small number of them. We do try to promote from within whenever possible. If you want to know if we have any openings, check the websites listed above.

What educational background is needed to work in a crime lab?

Forensic Scientists are scientists. Normally the minimum required is a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, biology, physics, forensic science, or some other natural science from a four-year college. Degrees in criminology, anthropology or criminal justice are not sufficient. Firearms examiners may not need a full BS degree, however, must have had extensive additional training under a qualified examiner. Our own laboratory over the past 40 years has tended to hire people with BS or MS degrees in Forensic Science who have done an internship in a forensic lab. 

DNA analysts must meet additional criteria. Strict quality control criteria require 15 hours of college coursework in 4 specific college courses:

1) biochemistry
2) molecular biology
3) statistics
4) genetics

A master’s degree is required for a DNA supervisor (“Technical Leader”). Accreditation inspectors actually review college transcripts to ensure these criteria are met. 

The job market is very competitive, so the more knowledge you bring to the job, the better. The more you can do to distinguish yourself from the other candidates, the better. 

What schools offer programs in forensic science?

In our area Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, KY and Ohio University in Athens, OH offer well established BS forensic science programs. Miami University in Oxford, OH now has a degree in forensic science, and Indiana University Purdue University in Indianapolis offer BS degrees in forensic science as well. In addition, Michigan State University, Marshall University in Huntington West Virginia, and West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia offer a MS program. Of course, many other programs have sprung up in the past few years. You can go to to see a complete list of schools that are accredited by FEPAC. When choosing a different school, you may want to check with the Crime Lab Director to see if the school’s curriculum will suffice.  And check with the school about helping you get into an internship. This is very helpful when trying to secure a job after graduation.

How can I get a job in a crime lab?

There are only about 400 forensic labs in the US, so the job market is very competitive. You should also be prepared to travel to where the jobs are. The job postings on the web sites for AAFS, ASCLD, MAFS, AFTE, or SOFT will give you an idea of the locations of current jobs. Each lab will have their own application procedures and requirements, but in general the minimum requirement is a bachelor’s degree in a natural or physical science such as chemistry, biology, physics, or forensic science. Obviously, applicants must have no criminal history or history of drug abuse (to include marihuana). Most labs have a program of employee drug testing, and some agencies require polygraph exams. Forensic scientists are professionals and therefore their dress and demeanor are professional. Be careful what you put out there on social media for the world to see. In addition to good analytical knowledge, employers are also looking for a professional appearance and good verbal communication skills that will hold up well on the witness stand. Be especially careful about drafting cover letters. They represent an opportunity to demonstrate your writing ability to communicate clearly and concisely. Our laboratory issues about 15,000 technical reports a year. Many are introduced into evidence and must stand on their own. Clearly communication skills are important. 

Does your lab offer internships?

We offer two, unpaid internships each summer to senior forensic science students who live in our area. These are students who have already made a substantial commitment to a forensic career and need some practical experience before entering the job market. They have sufficient basic skills to benefit from being in a forensic lab and they have had exposure to evidence handling requirements so they can be trusted around evidence. We are not an educational institution but have a professional responsibility to ensure the quality of forensic graduates is maintained. Because we are a tax-supported entity charged with the examination of criminal evidence, we focus on that mission. We do not expect to increase the number of available internships. Prospective interns should send to the Crime Lab Director a request for an internship the fall preceding the summer of internship. The request should include a cover letter, a letter of request from the Forensic Department Head at their college, a copy of their transcript, and a resume. Prospective interns should expect to be interviewed when competing for the two positions.

Can I or my group visit your lab?

Yes. The general public may tour our new crime lab as it was built with glass hallways for tours to see into the labs without disrupting our work. Email Chief Administrator Andrea Hatten ([email protected]) to request a tour. Enter the building through our front door and you will be greeted by security, given a lanyard, and wait in the lobby for a guide. Group sizes are limited, and tours are typically scheduled on Tuesday afternoons. We do not allow requests for “shadowing” from students, although it is possible to arrange an interview with an analyst over the phone.  Like most crime labs, we tend to be understaffed and overworked, hence we must concentrate on why taxpayers have hired us---to process evidence from serious criminal investigations. 

Can someone from the crime lab come speak to my group?

We encourage our scientists to go out into the community and give presentations. School requests should be from a middle school or higher. The requester must mail or fax a written request to the Crime Lab Director stating when, where, who, and why the speaker is being requested. Many of our analysts are willing to give presentations on what we do in a forensic crime lab, how a student should prepare for such a career, and why to stay out of trouble. Requests for pathologists from the Coroner's Office to talk about autopsies and forensic medicine should be directed to the Coroner's Administrator.

How much money do forensic scientists make?

The best way to answer this question is to look at the job notices on the forensic websites. In our own lab, however, in the year 2021 we have three main, basic pay ranges: Forensic Analyst I, II, and III. After an entry level around $42,000 for about 1 year a Forensic Analyst I will typically start around $51,000. The county commissioners typically allow supervisors to grant merit pay increases of 1% to 3% a year. There is no automatic cost of living increase in Hamilton County. After about five years, an analyst is eligible for promotion to FAII. The range for this position starts around $61,000. After ten years employment, promotion is possible to FAIII. This pay range starts around $71,000. Salaries and benefits vary of course between geographic regions. Crime laboratories are for the most part, government organizations (Hamilton County in our instance) and therefore tax supported agencies. Hence salaries tend to be lower than business and industry. Benefits, however, such as healthcare and retirement are comparable to those found elsewhere. There are also few opportunities for advancement because most labs are small with minimal bureaucracy. A supervisor of an analytical section will be another pay grade higher.

Do crime lab analysts go to crime scenes?

In our jurisdiction we respond to crime scenes only in very rare situations. Law enforcement investigators are responsible for collecting and preserving evidence for submission to the crime laboratory. Analysts normally spend all their time in the lab examining evidence. In other jurisdictions, however, forensic scientists do evidence collection, so it varies from place to place. 

What do analysts actually do in the laboratory?

Most lay people do not appreciate the fact that there is a differentiation of labor in the laboratory as well as in the criminal justice community.
Trace Evidence – Small things are analyzed usually requiring the use of a microscope to identify them or compare them to known samples. Trace evidence examiners have clean examination rooms, many different instruments, and good lighting to analyze a myriad of things such as: hairs, fibers, glass, soil, explosives, wood, headlights, gunshot residue, shoeprints, tire tracks, fire debris for ignitable liquids, and many other small particles. Two analysts handle about 250 cases per year.

Controlled Substances – When police arrest someone for the sale or possession of street drugs, or if drugs or paraphernalia are found at the scene of a death, they are submitted to us to determine if they are controlled substances. We receive about 11,000 submissions per year. Because of Hamilton County rapid indictment laws, the suspect gets his day in court within 10 days of the arrest. Therefore, our drug chemists average a turnaround time of 4 days and do up to 250 cases per analyst per month. They open the cases and prepare the samples in the laboratory for instrumental analysis. The most common instrument used in this laboratory is the gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer.

Toxicology – Toxicologists analyze body fluids and tissues such as blood, urine, and liver for alcohol, drugs, and other toxic substances. Most of their work comes from the morgue where they help the pathologists determine cause of death. They also perform testing on OVI (operator vehicle impaired), DFC (Drug Facilitated Crime), and other miscellaneous crime lab cases. Not only do they determine what type of drug is in a person, or how much drug is present, but if it might be a lethal level. Would this amount of drug in a living person been able to impair them or not when operating a motor vehicle or contributed to a sexual assault case? Since each drug has its own extraction process, precisely deciphering all this information takes time. Therefore, our toxicologists try to maintain a turnaround time of 20-25 days.

Forensic Biology / DNA - These analysts identify and analyze biological samples such as blood, semen, urine, and saliva in all kinds of cases including homicides, rapes, assaults, burglaries, and many other crimes. Most of their time and expertise involves extraction, preparation, amplification, and identification of DNA in separate laboratory rooms. The sensitivity of this process is so good that DNA can be found on an item that was simply touched by an individual. DNA can be linked from an individual to a scene and from one case to another using a local, State, and National database system called CODIS. Our DNA analysts typically complete about 100 cases per month and solve 25 cases per month with CODIS hits. The probability of an individual DNA profile matching one particular suspect can often be determined as 1 in 1 decillion when we only have 7 billion people on the planet.

Firearms – During an autopsy a bullet can be extracted from a body and given to the firearms examiner to compare to a known bullet fired from a suspect’s gun in our firing range on the first floor. A microscopic examination of the two bullets can determine if they were fired from the same gun. Our firearms examiners are extremely busy examining guns, bullets, and cartridge casings from all the shootings you hear about in the news. Besides comparisons they do function tests, gun predictions, serial number restorations, toolmark examinations, and enter cartridge cases in the NIBIN database which can link one case to another. Each examiner has their own office to darken or set the lighting correct for their microscopic examination. The statistical information elsewhere on this site will give a more detailed breakdown of the types of cases each section processes. Each discipline, or laboratory section, requires special skills, but much of the work revolves around chemical instrumentation such as chromatographs and spectrometers as well as optical and electron microscopes. 

The analyst usually knows very little about the facts of the investigation and is merely providing an analytical service for the investigator. Each analyst prepares a written report which is returned to the investigator with the evidence. The police integrate this report with other findings of their investigation and present the information to the prosecutor's office for adjudication. The prosecutor or defense attorney can call the analyst to testify at trial if necessary. Analysts also spend time performing equipment maintenance, quality control, safety and administrative functions, reviewing scientific literature, dealing with phone and e-mail inquiries and training police. In general, crime laboratories are becoming more and more reliant on advanced technology using auto samplers and robotics. Analysts are encouraged to do research as time allows, present papers at scientific meetings, and publish work in scientific journals. Some of our analysts have been requested to speak all over the United States and several foreign countries.

How does our local lab differ from what we see on CSI and other TV shows?

TV shows are purposely made to be dramatic in order to keep the viewer's attention. Thankfully in real life we don't see such drama. It is true, however, that a career in forensic science is exciting, rewarding, and very interesting on a daily basis. First of all, on TV shows like CSI you will see one analyst doing the work of seven different people in real life. No one person goes to the scene and collects evidence, interviews witnesses, makes arrests after a shootout, and then takes the evidence back to the lab where they perform microscopic analysis, DNA analysis, and firearms analysis. Well trained local police officers handle all the investigation and most of the collection of evidence. Forensic analysts are rarely called to the scene in Hamilton County. In addition, forensic analysts specialize in one particular discipline of forensic examinations. At the Hamilton County Coroner's Laboratory, we have analysts that specialize in Forensic Biology and DNA. Analysts that handle Firearms related testing. Scientists that analyze all the confiscated street drugs and controlled substances. Chemists that analyze drugs, poisons, and alcohol in body fluids as toxicologists. And Trace Evidence analysts that test a wide variety of microscopic trace evidence like, paint, glass, fibers, hairs, cosmetics, adhesives, primer residues, shoeprints, wood, pollen, explosives, and soils. Scientific technology changes frequently and our lab is very well equipped, but in real life casework takes time and diligence. We never solve a case in an hour. Sure, there are times when analysts will drop everything, work extra hours, and rush a case to get an answer for an important ongoing investigation, but it is meticulous work that takes time and careful thought. Our new lab is as glamorous looking as anything you see on TV. We are fortunate to have an 87,000 square foot, new, state-of-the-art crime lab built in 2021. We do not have Hummers to drive around and don’t wear designer clothing in the lab. Most importantly though is the fact that we are completely unbiased scientists. We are not "out to get the guy" like they are on TV. We are just as concerned about proving the innocence of an accused as we are proving the guilty. We serve the court system to help each case arrive at the truth.