U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Death Investigation: A Guide for the Scene Investigator, 2024

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2024
56 pages

This document provides a breakdown of the various tasks involved in conducting medicolegal death investigations, which has been updated to account for changes and advances in forensic technologies and policies.


This revised and updated, 2024 edition guide for death scene investigators is the result of a collaborative effort to present the most current information about issues confronting medicolegal death investigators (MDIs) and reflects changes and advances in communication, photography, and documentation technology, as well as procedural advances in drug and child- and infant-death investigations. It also presents a greater awareness of the importance of the MDI among professional partners, families, and the media. This document also addresses how MDIs must be allowed to perform independent but collaborative investigations with law enforcement, ensuring best outcomes for death and criminal investigations. The document is organized into six sections describing job details and functions aimed at guiding MDIs in their workflows, and three appendixes. The sections are as follows: Initial Notification and Determination of Response; Arriving at the Scene; Documenting and Evaluating the Scene; Documenting and Evaluating the Body; Recording Decedent Profile Information; and Completing the Scene Investigation. The appendixes provide additional information about investigative tools and equipment; a glossary of technical terms; and a directory of the Technical Update Working Group Committee.

Date Published: July 1, 2024