A Miami-Dade judge ruled Monday that Bitcoin is not actually money, a decision hailed by proponents of the virtual currency that has become popular across the world.
In a case closely watched in financial and tech circles, the judge threw out the felony charges against website designer Michell Espinoza, who had been charged with illegally transmitting and laundering $1,500 worth of Bitcoins. He sold them to undercover detectives who told him they wanted to use the money to buy stolen credit-card numbers.
But Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Teresa Mary Pooler ruled that Bitcoin was not backed by any government or bank, and was not “tangible wealth” and “cannot be hidden under a mattress like cash and gold bars.”
“The court is not an expert in economics, however, it is very clear, even to someone with limited knowledge in the area, the Bitcoin has a long way to go before it the equivalent of money,” Pooler wrote in an eight-page order.
The judge also wrote that Florida law – which says someone can be charged with money laundering if they engage in a financial transaction that will “promote” illegal activity – is way too vague to apply to Bitcoin.
“This court is unwilling to punish a man for selling his property to another, when his actions fall under a statute that is so vaguely written that even legal professionals have difficulty finding a singular meaning,” she wrote.
The ruling was lauded by Bitcoin experts who believe the ruling will encourage the use of the virtual currency, and offer a roadmap to governments across the world that have struggled to understand and regulate it.