A Florida man accused of money laundering is a free man today after a Miami judge ruled the Bitcoins used in the alleged transaction aren’t actually money.

The case is a milestone in Bitcoin litigation and has been closely watched by the Bitcoin community.

At issue is whether a Bitcoin dealer named Michell Abner Espinoza knowingly sold Bitcoin that he knew were going to be used to purchase stolen credit numbers. Whether he knew what the Bitcoin were going to be used for Espinoza certainly didn’t know the men he was selling to were undercover cops.

Espinoza was charged with multiple felonies in the case, but caught a break when he pulled Circuit Judge Teresa Pooler.

Judge Pooler freely admitted that she hadn’t heard of Bitcoin before the case came before her court. In fact, the judge went so far as saying she wasn’t sure anyone really knows what they are. In her judgement she wrote:

Nothing in our frame of references allows us to accurately define or describe Bitcoin.

One thing Judge Pooler was definitely sure about is the fact that Bitcoin, in her view, simply isn’t real money as she described further in her ruling.

“Bitcoin may have some attributes in common with what we commonly refer to as money,” she said. But she also pointed out that Bitcoin is an incredibly volatile form of exchange with wild fluctuations in value. With such volatility, she said, “Bitcoin have a limited ability to act as a store of value, another important attribute of money.”

Because money laundering has to involve actual money, Pooler threw out the case and Espinoza walked out the courtroom as a free man.

Speaking on his behalf, his attorney lauded the decision saying that Espinoza did nothing wrong.

The question now is what impact Pooler’s decision will have on future legal matters, particularly criminal cases, involving Bitcoin?


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