In the eyes of the law, a corporation is a person. But it’s a strangely bodiless person, which makes it tricky to punish with laws designed for human offenders.
Tired of this, federal judge Robert Doumar in 1988 sentenced Allegheny Bottling Company to three years in prison and a fine of $1 million. The company had been caught in a price-fixing scheme that cheated consumers out of at least $10 million. “Congress has not said a corporation could not be imprisoned,” Doumar said. “This court will deal with any individual who similarly disregards the law.”
More recently, California resident Jonathan Frieman put a charity’s incorporation papers in his passenger seat and drove in the carpool lane, arguing that his car now had multiple occupants.
“After I explained the reason I was citing him, he explained to me that he was exempt because he was in essence a corporation,” CHP Officer Troy Dorn testified. “I explained to him I was not sure about his standing as a corporation but he could explain it later in a Marin County court.”