Fla. Lawmaker Pushing to Classify Bitcoin as Money

Following a Florida court ruling that tossed out charges of money laundering on the grounds that Bitcoin wasn’t legally “money” with which to be laundered, a state senator in Florida is drafting new legislation that could change that legal status. Hukill argues that such a bill is needed due to growing interest in Bitcoin as a form of payment, and mentioning examples of local businesses starting to accept the digital currency.

Bitcoin as Money Legislation

According to CoinDesk, Senator Dorothy Hukill, a republican who serves as chain of the state’s Finance Tax Committee, is in the early stages of drafting legislation that will seek to balance protections for consumers and startups by granting Bitcoin legal recognition as money. The effort is seen as a response to Florida judge tossed out charges in a criminal case earlier this year on the grounds that Bitcoin doesn’t fit the state’s definition of money transmission. (For more, see: Florida Court: Bitcoin is Not Money (Yet))

The relevant court ruling in Miami came from the case of Michell Esponiza, the defendant, who allegedly sold $1,500 worth of bitcoin to undercover police agents with the intent to illegally purchase stolen credit card numbers. Detectives state that he sold the cryptocurrency knowing full well it was to be used for illegal activities, and accused him of money laundering. Despite that, judge Teresa Pooler dismissed the case on the grounds that she felt that Bitcoin fails to meet the definition of “money” in the legal sense.

Senator Hulkill, in suggesting how to implement the new bill, cited New York’s BitLicense and cast it in a negative light. The BitLicense is meant to regulate Bitcoin businesses and protect consumers, but ended up driving those innovative businesses out of the state and costing New York both jobs and tax revenues. (See also: The Six Biggest Misconceptions About Bitcoin)

The Bottom Line

The legal status of Bitcoin as “money” is unclear, but lawmakers are seeking to establish some clarity. After a Florida judge dismissed a criminal case on the grounds that Bitcoin was not money, a Florida state senator is now drafting a bill that will reverse that precedent, and do so in such a way that will promote innovation and at the same time confer consumer protection.

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