Florida Judge Rules Bitcoin is not Money

Bitcoin  •  Criminal Action  •  Litigation  •  Virtual Currency

On July 25, a Florida Circuit Court judge dismissed state criminal charges against a defendant who attempted to sell bitcoins for $30,000 in cash on the ground that bitcoins are not money. Defendant Michell Abner Espinoza allegedly had agreed to sell bitcoins to an undercover Miami Beach police detective who had indicated that he would use the bitcoins to purchase stolen Russian credit-card numbers. Espinoza was charged with one count of unlawfully engaging in business as a money transmitter and two counts of money laundering. Espinoza argued that he had not committed any crime as bitcoin was not money and the purchaser’s intended use for the bitcoins was not his concern. In her opinion, the judge dismissed all charges on the grounds that “bitcoin has a long way to go before it is the equivalent of money,” stating that “Bitcoin may have some attributes in common with what we commonly refer to as money, but differ in many important aspects. While bitcoin can be exchanged for items of value, they are not a commonly used means of exchange. They are accepted by some but not by all merchants or service providers. The value of bitcoin fluctuates wildly and has been estimated to be eighteen times greater than the U.S. dollar. Their high volatility is explained by scholars as due to their insufficient liquidity, the uncertainty of future value, and the lack of a stabilization mechanism. With such volatility they have a limited ability to act as a store of value, another important attribute to money.”

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