In Florida, bitcoin is not considered money and can be exchanged without special authorization, decided the justice, thus granting a victory to the defenders of the virtual currency.
“This tribunal is not an expert in economics. However, it is very clear even for anyone with limited knowledge in the field that bitcoin still has a long way to go to become the equivalent of currencies,” wrote Judge Teresa Pooler in her decision.
For the magistrate, “bitcoins are not monetary instruments” even if they are more and more used to settle financial transactions.
“It means that if you sell your bitcoins to someone else, you do not need a specific license. It’s like selling your property, “says Rene Palomino, defense lawyer in this case, the first of its kind in the US
On the other hand, “if you sell bitcoins on behalf of a third party, you need a license because you are a Western Union type intermediary,” says the board.
Miami resident Michel Espinoza was tried for selling, in 2013 and 2014, to a plainclothes policeman, bitcoins for a total value of $1,500 on LocalBitcoins, a dedicated platform. The latter had told him that he intended to use the virtual currency to steal credit card numbers.
Prosecuted for money laundering, his lawyer argued that bitcoin was not considered a full-fledged currency in the state of Florida.
By giving her reason, Judge Pooler added a rope to the bow of the promoters of this cryptocurrency, supposed to accompany the digital transformation of finance and put an end to the control by the public authorities and banks of the circuit of financial transactions.
“Bitcoin advocates have always portrayed it as a self-regulating system with a separate status, a reliable alternative to government-controlled currencies. This judgment strengthens them, “said Arthur Long, a lawyer specializing in New York’s Gibson, Dunn.
This victory falls in the middle of a debate about the identity of the inventor of the digital currency after the Australian Craig Wright presented himself in May as his putative father before going back a bit.
Created in 2009 by one or more mysterious computer scientist (s) hidden behind the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamato, bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, used primarily by the “geeks” and the underground economy that flourished in countries with high inflation. Argentina and Venezuela.
Despite its high volatility, it experienced its golden age during the Greek crisis, because it became, for a large number of Greeks, a reserve tool to invest their savings in the face of fears of return of the drachma.
Its advantage, according to its promoters, is that it is a virtual world currency and therefore does not depend on a state or a central bank.
In some US states, it is accepted in restaurants and many stores while it remains banned in France and China for example.
If Judge Pooler’s verdict applies primarily to Florida, it could spill over into the rest of the country.
“It will lead other states and other tribunals to decide on this issue,” said Charles Evans, a professor of finance at Barry University. This expert, whose studies claim that bitcoin is not a full-fledged currency, was cited by Spinoza’s defense.
The US authorities are divided on bitcoin: for the IRS (IRS), it is a personal good, while the Treasury Department likens it to a currency that can be used by thugs and other drug cartels to whiten dirty money.
The New York State Financial Regulator (NYDFS) requires a license – Bitlicence – to carry out transactions.
Some 15 million bitcoins have been created of which only about 14 million are in circulation, according to experts.