What Are the Rules for Digging Up Dead People?

If dead people were suddenly returning from the dead, there is no question there would demands for bodies to be exhumed to determine if the “returned” were who they claimed they were. Resurrection hit the issue head on in the second episode.

What are the requirements for exhuming a dead body?

It is long held precedent that a Court could order a body exhumed for evidence. Moss v. State, 152 Ala. 30 (Ala. 1907). This is true in “cold cases,” because there is no statute of limitations on murder.

California has the following requirements for exhuming a body:

No remains of any deceased person shall be removed from any cemetery, except upon written order of the health department having jurisdiction, or of the superior court of the county in which such cemetery is situated. A duplicate copy of the order shall be maintained as a part of the records of the cemetery. Any person who removes any remains from any cemetery shall keep and maintain a true and correct record showing:

(a) The date such remains were removed.

(b) The name and age of the person removed, when these particulars can be conveniently obtained and the place to which the remains were removed.

(c) The cemetery and the plot therein in which such remains were buried.

If the remains are disposed of other than by interment, a record shall be made and kept of such disposition. The person making the removal shall deliver to the cemetery authority operating the cemetery from which the remains were removed, a true, full and complete copy of such record.

Cal Health & Saf Code § 7500

The law does not want dead bodies disturbed without  “substantial reason.” Courts consider such as “substantial reason” as the “public interest, the conventions of common decency, the wish of the decedent, and the prohibitions of religious law.” In re Terra (1952, Cal App) 111 Cal App 2d 452, 244 P2d 921, 1952 Cal App LEXIS 1676.

A child who died 32 years in the past and then returns to life with DNA that matches the deceased child’s parents would be a “substantial reason” for a Court to order a body exhumed. Knowing the truth would be in the public interest for determining parenthood, child custody and whether the reanimated person was who they claimed to be.