Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What Types of Deaths are Investigated by the Delaware Division of Forensic Science?
The types of deaths investigated by the Delaware Division of Forensic Science are listed in Title 29, Section 4706 of the Delaware Code:
"When any person shall die in this State, as a result of violence, by suicide or by casualty if such occurred not longer than 1 year and 1 day prior to death, while under anesthesia, by abortion or suspected abortion, by poison or suspicion of poison or suddenly when in apparent health or when unattended by a physician or in any prison or penal institution or when in police custody or from a disease resulting from employment including disease related to injury or from an undiagnosed cause which may be related to a disease constituting a threat to public health or in any suspicious or unusual manner or if there is any unclaimed body or if any body is to be cremated, it shall be the duty of the person having knowledge of such death or of the person issuing a permit for cremation under Section 3162 of Title 16 immediately to notify the Chief Medical Examiner, an Assistant Medical Examiner or a Deputy Medical Examiner, as the case may be, who in turn shall notify the Attorney General of the known facts concerning the time, place, manner and circumstances of such death. Any person who shall willfully neglect or refuse to report such death or who shall refuse to make available prior medical or other information pertinent to the death investigation or who, without an order from the Delaware Division of Forensic Science, shall willfully touch, remove or disturb the clothing or any article upon or near the body shall upon conviction be subject to imprisonment for not more than 1 year or pay a fine of not more than $1,000, or both."
What requests can be made Online?
Autopsy Reports, Death Certificates and FOIA requests can be made online.
- Autopsy Report Request. See information below regarding “How to Request a Copy of an Autopsy Report”
- Death Certificate Request via: Office of Vital Statistics
- Media & FOIA Requests via: DSHS.Delaware.gov
How to Request a Death Certificate
When an examination has been performed by the Medical Examiner, a certificate of death is prepared following the release of the remains. Death certificates are completed using the online death certification system created by the Delaware Office of Vital Statistics and notification is sent to the licensed funeral home authorized to handle the remains of the decedent. The funeral home will then furnish the next of kin with the death certificate. Copies of the death certificate can be obtained by families either from the funeral home or by contacting the Office of Vital Statistics directly (302) 744-4549. If the cause and manner of death on the death certificate is initially listed as “pending”, once the Medical Examiner has made a final ruling as to the cause and/or manner of death, a revised death certificate will be issued, and notification will be made to the funeral home handling the decedent’s funeral arrangements. Please note: that a case initially ruled “Pending” may take weeks or in some instances months to revise and finalize the records. This is often related to the complexity of the investigation as well as additional laboratory or investigative studies.
How to Request a Copy of an Autopsy Report
A copy of an autopsy report may be released following a written request from the legal next of kin. The request should include the name of the decedent, date of death (if known) and the relationship to the deceased. Requests from insurance companies and attorneys must include an authorization that is signed by the legal next of kin as investigative information and autopsy reports are considered confidential and not public records. As a result, autopsy reports will not be released without proper documentation or authorization. Please note the following:
- Depending on the complexity of the case, the autopsy report could require in excess of 12 weeks from the date of death to be completed.
- Cases with a criminal investigation may require approval from the Attorney General’s office prior to release of the autopsy reports
To Submit your request by mail:
Fill out the appropriate request Family or Next of Kin, or Legal & Insurance Professionals along with a Notarized Authorization for Release of Confidential Information signed by the deceased’s next of kin.
Mail the request to:
Delaware Division of Forensic Science
Attention: Request for Report
200 S. Adams Street
Wilmington, Delaware 19801
Alternatively, you may instead submit your request online:
- Family or Next of Kin Request or Legal & Insurance Professionals Request.
- You are required to provide a Notarized Authorization for Release of Confidential Information signed by the deceased's next of kin along with your request.