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Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/76592024@N06/

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/76592024@N06/

In February, two Florida men were charged with money laundering for selling bitcoin to two undercover agents in a sting operation. The case has already been challenged on a variety of fronts, including the validity of the claim that a bitcoin transaction would even qualify under Florida’s laws as “money,” but thus far those claims have done little to sway the court. This week, the Bitcoin Foundation filed an amicus brief in support of the defendants, claiming that the law isn’t being applied fairly to bitcoin’s use.

As CoinDesk reports, the brief was filed to “ensure that the broader bitcoin community” in the state won’t be subjected to a legal interpretation that would put “undue restrictions” on other Florida bitcoin users. At issue is the charge leveled at bitcoin seller Pascal Reid, who is being charged with operating as an unauthorized money transmitter. Under Florida law, money transmitters are required to be corporate entities.

The Bitcoin Foundation’s view, stated in their blog post about the brief, is clear:

The foundation’s position at its core is this: state prosecutors are improperly applying Florida statutes regulating “money service businesses” to individuals conducting peer-to-peer sales of bitcoins.

Bitcoin Foundation Global Policy Counsel Jim Harper told CoinDesk: “If individuals’ bitcoin transactions made them subject to the registration and recordkeeping requirements of businesses, that would be a heavy impediment to bitcoin use. Whether the charges are serious or trivial, the law should be applied accurately and based on its terms.”

The Florida law was written long before peer-to-peer systems like bitcoin existed, and a ruling that such entities are illegal could have huge consequences for cryptocurrency adoption in the state. Although the criminal case is pending, there has been no move by lawmakers in the state to suppress bitcoin use in Florida, lending some strength to arguments that the criminal charges of a bitcoin transaction are an example of overreach by law enforcement.

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