Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal on January 30 reversed a ruling on Michell Espinoza’s case. The charges against the bitcoin trader had been dismissed in 2016 on the grounds that bitcoin is not legally money. However, the state recently appealed for a reversal of the ruling because Espinoza should have registered as a money services business under Florida’s law.
Espinoza Unknowingly Sold Bitcoins to Undercover Agents
Based on a media report, Michell Espinoza was trading bitcoin in 2014 and he also sold to undercover agents, unknowingly. One of the officers with the Miami Police Department hinted that the cryptocurrency will be used to acquire stolen credit card numbers, but then, Espinoza still transacted with him and charged fees as well.
Furthermore, the report reveals that this earned the bitcoin trader two charges on the grounds of money laundering and illegal money transmission. Nonetheless, Judge Teresa Mary Pooler of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida ruled the case in his favor. According to the judge, bitcoin is not legally considered as money, even though it can be used to trade for “items of value”.
Judge Said Bitcoin Cannot be Called Money
The judge also said that despite the similarities between bitcoin and fiat currency, the former could not be called money for a number of reasons. Some of these were the volatility of the asset which could not make it a store of value and the inability to predict the future of the virtual currency.
Teresa Mary Pooler also said:
[I]t is very clear, even to someone with limited knowledge in the area, that Bitcoin has a long way to go before it is the equivalent of money.
State Files an Appeal to Reverse Trial Courts Ruling on Case
While the case had been dismissed, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal has reversed the ruling. This was after the state filed an opinion in court on January 30, that Pooler’s ruling should be reversed. According to the state, the trial court had erred in dismissing the charges because Espinoza was supposed to register with the State of Florida. He “acted as both a money transmitter and a payment instrument seller”, according to the state.
What’s more, it was also pointed out that chapter 560 of the Florida Statutes’ definition of a money transmitter, demands that Espiona registers as a money services business. The document also said Espinoza acted as a payment instrument seller and engaging in the business of a money transmitter; both of which require registration by Florida’s laws.