The state Florida made headlines when Miami-Dade’s Circuit Judge Teresa Mary Pooler tossed out anti-money-laundering charges against website designer Michell Espinoza. According to recent reports, though, the state is filing an appeal against the decision to dismiss charges.
State Of Florida Appeals Judge Pooler’s Decision to Dismiss Charges
In February 2014, Espinoza was charged for unlicensed money transmissions and AML violations after selling bitcoins to an undercover Detective Ricardo Arias on the peer-to-peer trading website LocalBitcoins. Arias purchased bitcoins from Espinoza multiple times and then escalated the investigation when he purchased $30,000 USD worth of bitcoin.
However at the end of July, Judge Pooler, presiding over the case, dismissed all charges because the courts could not deem bitcoin as money.
“The court is not an experts in economics,” Pooler said. “However, it is very clear, even to someone with limited knowledge in the area, the Bitcoin has a long way to go before it [becomes] the equivalent of money.”
Espinoza’s attorney, Rene Palomino, further dismissed claims that his client acted as a money transmitter. “What he basically did was sell his own personal property,” Palomino said. “Mitchell Espinoza did not violate the law, plain and simple.”
According to court records from August 8, the state gave its notice of appeal towards the dismissed charges. The appeal went on record on August 10, and will now make its rounds through the district court system.
Governments Can’t Decide on What Bitcoin Is
A similar 2014 case in the Netherlands resulted in a Dutch judge declaring that bitcoin was not money in the same context. Ultimately, the court came to its decision because bitcoin did not meet the criteria of legal tender within the region.
Currently, U.S. federal, state and local governments have conflicting definitions of what Bitcoin is, creating an unclear regulatory framework for the currency across the country. Since laws from state to state regarding Bitcoin differ from one another, cases like Espinoza’s could be decided differently depending on the region.
The Bitcoin community seemed rather pleased in July when Judge Pooler threw out the charges against Espinoza. However, state prosecutors have different feelings towards Pooler’s ruling, contending the decision.
If the appeal is successful, and the case returns to court, Florida may rewrite the state’s current definition of Bitcoin.
What do you think about the state of Florida’s appeal against Michell Espinoza? Let us know in the comments below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Florida District Appeals Court
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