In response to last year’s dismissal of money laundering charges involving bitcoins, legislators in Florida are now considering a bill that would add digital currencies to the state’s anti-money laundering law.
The proposed law was crafted by Miami-Dade cybercrime prosecutors after a judge threw out the money laundering charges against Michell Espinoza, a Miami Beach man who was accused of selling $1,500 worth of bitcoins via bitcoin exchange site LocalBitcoins.com to undercover detectives who told him they wanted to use the digital currency to buy stolen credit card numbers.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Teresa Mary Pooler dismissed the charges against Espinoza on grounds that bitcoin could not be considered “money” as defined in state law.
Now, state prosecutors and lawmakers want to add teeth to the state’s current Money Laundering Act by adding the words “virtual currency” to the language used to define “monetary instruments.” In the proposal, virtual currency is defined as any “medium of exchange in electronic or digital format that is not a coin or currency of the United States or any other country.”
The bill is currency being considered at the ongoing annual legislative session, according to Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
“This legislation makes sure that traffickers and fraudsters can no longer try to use internet-based currencies to hide and move their ill-gotten gains,” Rundle said in a statement, according to the Miami Herald.
Bitcoin enthusiasts, however, fear that the law—once passed—will undermine digital currency.
Barry University economics professor Charles Evans, who, incidentally, told the court that bitcoin isn’t real money during Espinoza’s trial, said the draft law sends a message that financial innovation is not welcome in Florida.
“No doubt, officials in China, Europe, Russia, Texas and other places where bitcoin is welcome will be pleased,” Evans told Miami Herald’s David Ovalle.
A House version of the bill, sponsored by Miami Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, already sailed through an appropriations committee last week, while the Senate version is up for voting in an appropriations committee after passing two sub-committees.
Current bitcoin price
The price of bitcoin is up at $1,245 during Monday morning’s trading.