In jurisprudence, a natural person is a person (in legal meaning. i.e., one who has its own legal personality) that is an individual human being, as opposed to a legal person, which may be a private (i.e., business entity or non-governmental organization) or public (i.e., government) organization. Historically, a human being was not necessarily a natural person in some jurisdictions where a slave was a thing (subject of a property right) rather than a person.
In many cases, fundamental human rights are implicitly granted only to natural persons. For example, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states a person cannot be denied the right to vote based on their biological sex, or Section Fifteen of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees equality rights, apply to natural persons only. Another example of the distinction between natural and legal persons is that a natural person can hold public office, but a corporation cannot.
A corporation or non-governmental organization can, however, file a lawsuit or own property as a legal person.
- People v. Frazier, 173 Cal. App. 4th 613 (2009). In this case, the California Court of Appeal explained: "Despite the physical ability to commit vicious and violent acts, dogs do not possess the legal ability to commit crimes."