It seems that Florida and bitcoin are suddenly joined at the hip. Madeira Beach has become the first municipality to accept the digital currency following a city council decision, and is hosting its Bitcoin Bowl pre-party in preparation for the real thing.
Recently, however, Florida’s relationship with bitcoin has encountered a glitch. Following his arrest in Miami in February of this year for selling bitcoins to an undercover agent, 29-year-old Pascal Reid has argued that Florida’s state money transfer statue refers only to corporations, rather than individuals; an argument that has been rejected by Miami courts.
Circuit Court Judge Fleur Lobree delivered the following reasoning behind the rejection:
“Florida statutes prohibit a person from engaging in a money services business without a license. Therefore, […] the defendant meets the requirements to be charged with engaging in the money services business as a money transmitter without being licensed.”
Ron Lowy, Reid’s attorney, feels that bitcoin is not necessarily money, but rather a “thing of value,” and should not be made vulnerable to the statute:
“The statute was intended for the exchange of money for money… If you extend it to anything of value, then any customer using a credit card to buy something, anyone holding a yard sale and accepting cash, is a money transferer.”
Lowy is disappointed by the decision, and while it is too early to appeal the judge’s ruling, he is hoping a jury will help overturn the outcome.