Bitcoin does not actually qualify as money, a Miami-Dade judge ruled Monday in throwing out criminal charges against a Miami Beach man charged with illegally selling the virtual currency.
Monday’s decision came in a case that is being closely watched in tech, financial and legal circles as the popularity of the virtual currency has skyrocketed in recent years.
The defendant, Michell Espinoza, was charged with illegally selling and laundering $1,500 worth of Bitcoins 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