Articles on SFGATE from 2013 and Wikipedia: Jonathan Frieman describe the legal efforts of Johnathan Frieman of San Rafael, CA in creating an odd test case for corporate personhood.

Frieman argues that if corporate personhood is valid, and corporations have legal rights of people as evidenced by e.g., the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that a corporation's constitutional rights as a person, specifically their rights under the First Amendment to the US Constitution, barred the government from limiting corporate donations to political campaigns, then corporations should have a right to join a carpool and thereby enable a vehicle to legally occupy the carpool lane.

This may also be some kind of test case / legal protest of corporate person as the article suggests he would also be OK with a ruling that corporations aren't really people after all.

Ford Greene, Frieman's attorney, pointed to California vehicle code section 470, which says the definition of a person includes "natural persons and corporations." The signs on the freeways ask carpoolers to carry "2 or more persons" which, Greene said, "is constitutionally vague."

The CVC online shows:

  1. "Person" includes a natural person, firm, copartnership, association, limited liability company, or corporation.

but this is a general definition and I would expect the part of the CVC that discusses the HOV lanes to have its own definition or terminology for a person, or perhaps an occupant, etc...

The traffic court judge ruled against Frieman, citing the purpose of the carpool lane as defined in the code is to reduce traffic congestion:

"Common sense says carrying a sheath of papers in the front seat does not relieve traffic congestion ... And so I'm finding you guilty."

But Frieman plans an appeal...

Outside the courtroom, Frieman said he would appeal the ruling within 30 days. "I expected to lose," Frieman said. "And I expected the judge to cite the reasons he did."


  • has there been an appeal of this case in California?
  • if not, does Frieman have a case or is this purely frivolous nonsense?

Information on similar cases is welcome.

  • 2
    A body corporate cannot occupy a vehicle surely
    – Calchas
    Jul 26 '15 at 15:16
  • 1
    This is surely frivolous nonsense whether or not he actually has a case.
    – cpast
    Jul 26 '15 at 16:30

This is an amusing idea, but ultimately it seems frivolous: How does one establish the physical presence of a corporation in a car?

Yes, corporations have some of the legal rights and liabilities of people, but they are not people. And there are plenty of rights a person has that a corporation does not. For example (at present) a corporation can't be a party to a marriage. The closest a corporation comes to any corporal presence is the address listed of their agents.

  • 2
    I agree it seems frivolous, of a sort similar to tax protestor nonsense. A corporation might be domiciled in a car if that were the address of its (homeless?) registered agent or principal office, but that's delving well into the absurd and surely establishes itself as a device to evade traffic law. It does appear two corporations can merge and/or create a partnerships to produce new, subsidiary corporations, not unlike a marriage of natural persons, though they go through different legal and social processes to create or dissolve these unions.
    – Paul
    Jul 27 '15 at 0:49
  • 3
    @Paul - Ha! I think you just shut down the "Corporate Marriage Rights" movement ;)
    – feetwet
    Jul 27 '15 at 0:50
  • 2
    @Paul, no I got it. I was just thinking of Obergefell v. Hodges and the political movement that surrounded that. Your note that corporations already have substantially similar rights would take the wind out of any movement to extend "traditional marriage" to corporations.
    – feetwet
    Jul 27 '15 at 1:01
  • 2
    Surely if you have a passenger that has no pulse and isn't breathing and you don't stop immediately and call an ambulance, you are negligent, right?
    – gnasher729
    Dec 13 '15 at 16:58
  • 1
    A bigger issue is that there are many laws which involve physical persons in ways which are agnostic to those people's rights (e.g. fire codes limiting the number of physical persons in a space with a certain number of exits). I would suggest that a corporation which had a driver's license would have a right to operate a vehicle in the carpool lane if it contains a suitable number of physical persons, just as a person would have the right to operate a vehicle (such rights may be relevant with things like Google's self-driving cars).
    – supercat
    Aug 11 '16 at 20:21

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