A Florida judge has ruled that Bitcoin is property in a case where the defendant, Michell Espinoza, had been accused of laundering money.

Defendant had faced felony charges for money-laundering Bitcoins

After meeting Espinoza three times by finding him through a Bitcoins exchange website, undercover officers had arrested the web designer in 2013 for illegally laundering $1,500 in Bitcoins.

He was accused of allegedly selling Bitcoins, realizing that it would be used for illegal activity.


The officers had told Espinoza that they would be using the money to purchase stolen credit-card numbers.

After his arrest, Espinoza faced felony charges after being accused of two counts of money laundering and one count of acting as a money transmitter.

Ruling states Bitcoin is not money

Judge Teresa Pooler dismissed all charges, asserting that because Bitcoin isn’t money that is neither “tangible” nor backed by governments or banks, Espinoza couldn’t be charged with illegally laundering or transmitting money.


Under Florida law, a person can be charged with money laundering if the transaction promotes illegal financial activity. The judge ruled that the law was too vaguely written to apply to Bitcoin, which isn’t the type of “monetary instrument” that could be used for such illegal financial transactions.

Judge Pooler agreed with the defense's argument by concluding that Bitcoins do not meet the definition of a "payment" instrument that is defined by the IRS.

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Therefore, Espinoza was dismissed of having illegally acted as a money transmitter. The court ruling was made at the state circuit court level, and may serve as a precedent for future cases.

With the increasing use of Bitcoins, the Florida case highlights the need for future lawmakers to classify Bitcoins clearly as currency or property in order to regulate it.

Regulating Bitcoin: currency or property?

Bitcoin is a form of digital currency that has been gaining in popularity among merchants and vendors, although a central authority does not regulate it.

Instead, it is produced using peer-to-peer technology.

Services like Coinbase allow people to use Bitcoins. However, Bitcoin transactions can also occur anonymously, raising attention among law enforcement for its potential in illegal use.

In another case in Florida, a man had been sentenced to 10 years of incarceration for having purchased synthetic heroin using Bitcoins.

Bitcoin proponents and experts have been enthused by the conclusion to the Florida case, expecting that the usage of the virtual currency will increase following the decision.


They have asserted that the Florida ruling will increase the general understanding of Bitcoin as a form of cryptocurrency. The decision will also enable governments to begin developing ways to regulate Bitcoin.

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