This website will be unavailable from Friday, April 26, 2024 at 6:00 p.m. through Monday, April 29, 2024 at 7:00 a.m. due to data center maintenance.

 
 
  H.B. No. 3161
 
 
 
 
AN ACT
  relating to the duties of a justice of the peace, medical examiner,
  or other investigator regarding the bodies of unidentified deceased
  persons and to the control by certain persons of the disposition of
  a deceased person's remains.
         BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
         SECTION 1.  Article 49.01, Code of Criminal Procedure, is
  amended to read as follows:
         Art. 49.01.  DEFINITIONS.  (a)  In this chapter [article]:
               (1)  "Autopsy" means a post mortem examination of the
  body of a person, including X-rays and an examination of the
  internal organs and structures after dissection, to determine the
  cause of death or the nature of any pathological changes that may
  have contributed to the death.
               (2)  "Inquest" means an investigation into the cause
  and circumstances of the death of a person, and a determination,
  made with or without a formal court hearing, as to whether the death
  was caused by an unlawful act or omission.
               (3)  "Inquest hearing" means a formal court hearing
  held to determine whether the death of a person was caused by an
  unlawful act or omission and, if the death was caused by an unlawful
  act or omission, to obtain evidence to form the basis of a criminal
  prosecution.
               (4)  "Institution" means any place where health care
  services are rendered, including a hospital, clinic, health
  facility, nursing home, extended-care facility, out-patient
  facility, foster-care facility, and retirement home.
               (5)  "Physician" means a practicing doctor of medicine
  or doctor of osteopathic medicine who is licensed by the Texas State
  Board of Medical Examiners under Subtitle B, Title 3, Occupations
  Code.
         (b)  For purposes of this chapter, a person or body is
  considered unidentified if:
               (1)  the deceased person's legal name is unknown; and
               (2)  there is no known person with the duty to inter the
  deceased person's remains under Section 711.002(a), Health and
  Safety Code.
         SECTION 2.  Article 49.04(a), Code of Criminal Procedure, is
  amended to read as follows:
         (a)  A justice of the peace shall conduct an inquest into the
  death of a person who dies in the county served by the justice if:
               (1)  the person dies in prison under circumstances
  other than those described by Section 501.055(b), Government Code,
  or in jail;
               (2)  the person dies an unnatural death from a cause
  other than a legal execution;
               (3)  the body or a body part of a person is found and
  either:
                     (A)  the person is identified but [,] the cause or
  circumstances of death are unknown[, and:
                     [(A) the person is identified]; or
                     (B)  the person is unidentified, regardless of
  whether the cause or circumstances of death are known;
               (4)  the circumstances of the death indicate that the
  death may have been caused by unlawful means;
               (5)  the person commits suicide or the circumstances of
  the death indicate that the death may have been caused by suicide;
               (6)  the person dies without having been attended by a
  physician;
               (7)  the person dies while attended by a physician who
  is unable to certify the cause of death and who requests the justice
  of the peace to conduct an inquest; or
               (8)  the person is a child younger than six years of age
  and an inquest is required by Chapter 264, Family Code.
         SECTION 3.  Section 6(a), Article 49.25, Code of Criminal
  Procedure, is amended to read as follows:
         (a)  Any medical examiner, or his duly authorized deputy,
  shall be authorized, and it shall be his duty, to hold inquests with
  or without a jury within his county, in the following cases:
               1.  When a person shall die within twenty-four hours
  after admission to a hospital or institution or in prison or in
  jail;
               2.  When any person is killed; or from any cause dies an
  unnatural death, except under sentence of the law;  or dies in the
  absence of one or more good witnesses;
               3.  When the body or a body part of a person is found and
  either:
                     (A)  the person is identified but [,] the cause or
  circumstances of death are unknown[, and:
                     [(A) the person is identified]; or
                     (B)  the person is unidentified, regardless of
  whether the cause or circumstances of death are known;
               4.  When the circumstances of the death of any person
  are such as to lead to suspicion that he came to his death by
  unlawful means;
               5.  When any person commits suicide, or the
  circumstances of his death are such as to lead to suspicion that he
  committed suicide;
               6.  When a person dies without having been attended by a
  duly licensed and practicing physician, and the local health
  officer or registrar required to report the cause of death under
  Section 193.005, Health and Safety Code, does not know the cause of
  death.  When the local health officer or registrar of vital
  statistics whose duty it is to certify the cause of death does not
  know the cause of death, he shall so notify the medical examiner of
  the county in which the death occurred and request an inquest;
               7.  When the person is a child who is younger than six
  years of age and the death is reported under Chapter 264, Family
  Code; and
               8.  When a person dies who has been attended
  immediately preceding his death by a duly licensed and practicing
  physician or physicians, and such physician or physicians are not
  certain as to the cause of death and are unable to certify with
  certainty the cause of death as required by Section 193.004, Health
  and Safety Code.  In case of such uncertainty the attending
  physician or physicians, or the superintendent or general manager
  of the hospital or institution in which the deceased shall have
  died, shall so report to the medical examiner of the county in which
  the death occurred, and request an inquest.
         SECTION 4.  Section 711.002, Health and Safety Code, is
  amended by amending Subsection (l) and adding Subsections (l-1) and
  (l-2) to read as follows:
         (l)  A person listed in Subsection (a) may not control the
  disposition of the decedent's remains if:
               (1)  [,] in connection with the decedent's death, [an
  indictment has been filed charging] the person has been arrested or
  an arrest warrant has been issued for the person for [with] a crime
  under Chapter 19, Penal Code, that involves family violence against
  the decedent; or
               (2)  the decedent had filed an application for a
  protective order against or with respect to the person under
  Subchapter A, Chapter 7B, Code of Criminal Procedure, Article
  17.292, Code of Criminal Procedure, Section 6.504, Family Code, or
  Subtitle B, Title 4, Family Code, or an order has been issued
  against or with respect to the person under one of those provisions.
         (l-1)  A person regulated under Chapter 651, Occupations
  Code, who knowingly allows a person described by Subsection (l) 
  [the person charged with a crime] to control the disposition of the
  decedent's remains in violation of that [this] subsection commits a
  prohibited practice under Section 651.460, Occupations Code, and
  the Texas Funeral Service Commission may take disciplinary action
  or assess an administrative penalty against the regulated person
  under that chapter.
         (l-2)  A court with jurisdiction over probate proceedings
  shall expedite the proceedings to resolve any dispute over the
  right to control the disposition of a decedent's remains among the
  persons listed in Subsection (a) if the dispute involves the
  control of the disposition of the remains by a prohibited person
  described by Subsection (l).
         SECTION 5.  Articles 49.01, 49.04, and 49.25, Code of
  Criminal Procedure, as amended by this Act, apply only to an
  investigation of a death of an unidentified person that commences
  on or after the effective date of this Act.  An investigation of the
  death of an unidentified person that commences before the effective
  date of this Act is governed by the law in effect when the
  investigation commenced, and the former law is continued in effect
  for that purpose.
         SECTION 6.  This Act takes effect September 1, 2023.
 
 
  ______________________________ ______________________________
     President of the Senate Speaker of the House     
 
 
         I certify that H.B. No. 3161 was passed by the House on May 2,
  2023, by the following vote:  Yeas 139, Nays 5, 3 present, not
  voting; and that the House concurred in Senate amendments to H.B.
  No. 3161 on May 25, 2023, by the following vote:  Yeas 136, Nays 0,
  1 present, not voting.
 
  ______________________________
  Chief Clerk of the House   
 
         I certify that H.B. No. 3161 was passed by the Senate, with
  amendments, on May 21, 2023, by the following vote:  Yeas 31, Nays
  0.
 
  ______________________________
  Secretary of the Senate   
  APPROVED: __________________
                  Date       
   
           __________________
                Governor