Persons” are one of the two main classes which are the subject of rights, powers, and duties, the other being “citizens”. Persons may be “natural” or “corporate”. “Citizens” are a subclass of “natural persons”. Only persons have standing as parties under due process. Each government has the power to define what is and is not a “person” within its jurisdiction, subject to certain restrictions of Common Law and the Constitution, the 15th Amendment to which requires that it not exclude anyone based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Under Common Law existing at the time of the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, “natural personhood” was considered to begin at natural birth and end with the cessation of the heartbeat. But technology has created a new situation, opening the way for statute or court decision to extend this definition and set the conditions under which personhood begins and ends.
Each government may also establish, within its jurisdiction, “corporate persons” such as governmental entities, associations, corporations, or partnerships, in addition to the Common Law “natural” persons, but the “personhood” of such corporate entities is not created by the government. Its corporate personhood derives from the personhood of its members. Corporate persons must be aggregates of natural persons.
Under Common Law, natural persons include only human beings, but provides a basis for inclusion of entities that are sufficiently like human beings in their behavior to be indistinguishable for legal purposes, such as aliens, androids, or genetically enhanced animals, which have interests, an ability to reason, and an ability to communicate. This would exclude, however, establishment of other things as persons, such as inanimate objects, which have no ability to represent themselves under due process. Inclusion of such inanimate objects as parties to civil due process, in effect making them “persons”, has found its way into the U.S. legal system, unconstitutionally, through recent seizure/forfeiture statutes.
Although not a well-developed area, there is also a basis for excluding entities which, although they are born to human beings, lack attributes which would enable them to be functionally human, such as some minimal level of cognitive capacity, but such beings must be considered natural persons as the default unless proven otherwise through due process.