An existing answer establishes fairly well that corporations in the United States do not have Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

That leads me to wonder, do corporations in the US have any Constitutional rights at all?

For example, can the US Army lawfully quarter troops at a Holiday Inn somewhere in the USA in peacetime, against the will of the owner, on the basis that the owner is a corporation and thus not eligible for the Third Amendment right against quartering of troops in private homes?

Similarly, could a US court inflict cruel and unusual punishment on a corporation or require it to pay excessive bail or fines on the basis that a corporation doesn't have Eighth Amendment rights?

Similarly, could Congress provide a means to shut down a corporate-owned news broadcaster on the basis that only natural humans have the right to freedom of the press under the First Amendment?

Similarly, would a warrantless search of a corporate facility be lawful on the basis that the Fourth Amendment only requires police to obtain a search warrant when investigating a natural human?

If corporations have some Constitutional rights but lack others, which rights have they been found to have?

To be clear, I know that corporations actually exercise many of these rights in fact every day. My question, then, is if the possession of these rights by corporations is purely statutory or if their rights actually flow from the Constitution in the same way that the rights of human beings do. For example, suppose Congress passes a law authorizing Federal agents to enter Disney facilities without a warrant, blow up the printing presses used to produce Marvel comics, broadcast religious propaganda on ESPN, construct housing for US Air Force personnel in Space Mountain, arbitrarily and summarily impose the most cruel and unusual penalties you can imagine, require the payment of nearly unimaginably excessive bail and fines, forbid them from submitting a petition for redress of grievances under penalty of catapult, and then sell the entire corporation into slavery without a qualifying conviction. Would that be Constitutional?

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    How would cruel and unusual punishment be inflicted on a non-sentient entity?
    – Someone
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 19:21

2 Answers 2


In Grosjean v. American Press Co., 297 U.S. 233, SCOTUS held that

A corporation is a "person" within the meaning of the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment

Citizens United v. FEC, 558 U.S. 310 and numerous preceding cases find that "the First Amendment applies to corporations". Corporations also enjoy the right to contract (protected by the Contract Clause), meaning that the government cannot willy-nilly invalidate a contract because one of the parties is a corporation, see Trustees of Dartmouth Coll. v. Woodward, 17 U.S. 518. (But, of course, any government can regulate any contract by process of law). In general, under 1 USC 1,

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise...the words “person” and “whoever” include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals

We know that corporations do not have the right to vote. Second Amendment corporate rights are district-specific at present:

Seventh Circuit courts view firearms sellers like booksellers — as holders of constitutional rights. While gun sellers are subject to much stricter regulation than are booksellers, they are both protected by the Bill of Rights. Conversely, in the courts of the Fourth Circuit, gun sellers have no Second Amendment rights.

Third Amendment rights are unknown. Engblom v. Carey, 677 F.2d 957 which is binding only in a few states, is the entirety of 3rd Amendment case law and does not enter the relevant legal territory.

In Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, 251 U.S. 385, the court held that

The Fourth Amendment protects a corporation and its officers from compulsory production of the corporate books and papers for use in a criminal proceeding against them when the information upon which the subpoenas were framed was derived by the Government through a previous unconstitutional search and seizure, planned and executed by its officials under color of a void writ, provided the defense of the Amendment be seasonably interposed, and not first raised as a collateral issue at the trial of the indictment.

The article "A Corporation's Right to a Jury Trial under the Sixth Amendment", 27 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 375 explores the question of Sixth Amendment rights of corporations esp. the right to trial by jury – the summary is that this has yet to be clearly determined. US v. Troxler Hosiery Co., 681 F.2d 934 finds such a right as does United States v. R. L. Polk and Co., 438 F.2d 377

A corporation does not have the same right not to incriminate itself as does a natural person, but it does enjoy the same rights as individuals to trial by jury.

However, corporate trial-by-jury rights are buried deep in questions about the "seriousness" of the prosecution. Muniz v. Hoffman, 422 U.S. 454 held that "Petitioners are not entitled to a jury trial under 18 U.S.C. § 3692", but this is about a specific statute and a question of whether the offense is petty, and the broad constitutional question remains. The right to an attorney seems to be secure, see this opinion by Merrick Garland, and citations therein.

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    It's interesting that corporations have a right to trial by jury when they can't really get a jury of their peers, since corporations can't serve on juries (or can they?). Commented Jul 17, 2021 at 21:35
  • Here in the UK, there is one major difference between "real" individuals like you and I and "corporate" individuals: both what you rightly term "corporations" and other entities such as government departments of any level. Broadly, that leaves real individuals entitled to any action not forbidden by law, but corporate individuals entitled to no actions not specified in their charters or articles of association. Security staff won't be specifically mandated, but clearly such may be employed in defence of any legitimate activity. Commented Jul 18, 2021 at 0:20
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    @RobertColumbia The phrase "jury of one their peers" does not appear in the constitution. Commented Jul 18, 2021 at 1:50
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    @RobbieGoodwin Technically also true in the US, but this is why corporate charters usually say something like "for any lawful purpose". Commented Jul 18, 2021 at 3:00
  • @RobertColumbia Of course "jury of one their peers" doesn't appear in the Constitution. Could you Edit that Comment to show what you actually meant, or was the mistake yours alone? Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 19:26

A corporation's first-amendment right to free speech has been a critical factor in several high-profile cases, including New York Times v. Sullivan and Citizens United v. FEC.

Corporations have also been found to enjoy religious freedom, which, for example, allows religious organizations to use religious considerations in deciding whom to hire for certain positions.

Given the difference in application of these rights compared to the right to avoid self incrimination, it is apparent that the applicability of a given constitutional right to corporations (and, if so, how it applies) will vary.

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