Failure to report death is usually illegal in Arizona. The law states that any person who knows that a human being (or fetus) passed away under certain circumstances is required to report it. They must provide all of the information they know related to the death of that person, to the nearest peace officer.
It’s important to know which circumstances require reporting, so that you can follow the law accordingly. Failing to report death is a misdemeanor offense in Arizona and comes with serious penalties. If you’ve been in legal trouble with failing to report certain deaths, an attorney can help answer your questions.
What to Keep in Mind with Reporting Death in Arizona
- Failure to report certain deaths is a class 2 misdemeanor charge
- You must notify the proper authorities as soon as possible after finding a body
- It’s important to refrain from touching anything if you find a body (for safety and investigation-related reasons)
- Speak with a criminal defense attorney right away if you’ve been accused of failure to report death
A.R.S. 11-593: Requirements on Reporting Deaths
Failure to report a death in Arizona is covered under A.R.S. 11-593. According to the statute, you’re required to report the following to a peace officer:
- A death that occurred due to violence
- Death that involves unidentifiable bodies
- Death from surgical or anesthetic procedures
- Death that happened in a non-natural-unusual, or suspicious way
- Death believed to be from an employment or occupation-related death
- An unexplained or unexpected death (including that of a child or infant)
- A death that occurred while the person was in custodial agency (incarcerated or in a secure mental facility)
- Deaths that occurred while the person wasn’t receiving care from a health care provider
- Death believed to be from an undiagnosed or unreported disease that may threaten the safety of the public
Once you’ve reported the death to the nearest peace officer, they should promptly let a medical examiner know and investigate the circumstances (or notify those who will start an investigation). This doesn’t apply to deaths occurring due to anesthetic or surgical procedures. If there’s no medical examiner in the county where the death was reported, the peace officer should notify the county sheriff.
If you found the body in your home and it’s a relative or friend, you might be responsible for cleaning up. If you are, it’s best to consult a bioremediation company instead of attempting cleanup on your own.
Who Counts as a Peace Officer?
A peace officer generally refers to those who have an obligation to enforce laws. This definition includes law enforcement officials such as police, correctional facility personnel, attorney generals, juvenile justice professionals, and others.
What to Do if You Find a Body
It can be emotionally draining and shocking to find a dead body, but it’s important to act carefully if it happens to you. Here are the steps to take in that situation:
- Keep your distance: It’s best that you don’t touch anything if you find a dead body, as you might be interfering with evidence if you do. In addition, it might be decomposing and carrying bloodborne pathogens that can lead to infection.
- Call the police: Notify law enforcement as soon as possible and tell them everything you know, including whether the person seemed to be the victim of a crime or some kind of violence. The police and paramedics can figure out who it was that died and decide what to do next according to their experience.
- Answer questions: The police or medical professionals might need you to answer some questions, so try to be cooperative and remember all that you can.
Penalties for Failure to Report Death in Arizona
According to Arizona law, a person who is aware of a dead body that meets the descriptions mentioned earlier, and knowingly fails to report it as soon as they can (without having good reason to think it was already reported) has committed a class 2 misdemeanor crime. Other class 2 misdemeanor offenses include criminal damage, assault, and reckless driving. Failure to report death carries a $750 fine, up to 4 months in jail, and 2 years of probation.
Possible Defenses to Failure to Report Death
According to ARS 11-593, the crime of failing to report a death requires that you knowingly refused to report it. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to show that you didn’t realize what you were doing when you failed to report the incident. In other cases, a lawyer may be able to exert that you acted the way you needed to in the particular situation to prevent a crime or to respond to an emergency.
Frequently Asked Questions on Death Arrangements
Here are some more common questions regarding how to handle a death in Arizona:
Q: Who is responsible for final arrangements and decisions after someone has died?
A: If you’ve found the body of a dead spouse, it’s your right to make the decisions related to funeral services and what’s to be done with their body. Otherwise, the right goes to the person’s agent who is acting under a legally valid power of attorney. In cases where neither apply, the decedent’s adult children or other relatives will make the final decisions.
Q: Is it illegal to keep my loved one’s body in my house after they’ve died?
A: It’s legal to have a loved one’s body in your house (in all states) after they’ve passed on. Arizona law doesn’t require that you involve a funeral director in the arrangements for the body. It’s only required that a body disposition permit go to a responsible person, which can include a funeral director.
Q: What do I do if I need to move the remains?
A: Before handling the remains or moving the person’s body out of state, you’ll need to get a disposition-transit permit, which requires an official copy of the death certificate.
What to Do if You’re Facing Failure to Report a Death Charges
If you failed to report a death and are facing legal trouble as a result, it’s important to speak with a criminal defense attorney. They’ll take the time necessary to answer your questions, explain what charges you’re up against, and what they can do to help. The sooner you can get a legal professional on your side, the better.
Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.