According to the Buffalo News, a federal judge in New York has recommended that money-laundering charges be dropped in a local case, based on his determination that Bitcoin doesn’t qualify as money. Instead, U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott has opined that Bitcoin more closely resembles a commodity. While he noted that Bitcoin might one day become so acceptable that it could be considered as money, Scott suggested that it currently has more in common with collectibles - like trading cards and other novelty items.
The case involves a 31-year-old man who had allegedly sold Bitcoins worth $13,000 to a federal agent in an attempt to launder money and distribute drugs. Scott’s interpretation may not be accepted by U.S. District Judge Charles J. Siragusa, however, who has already expressed skepticism at the potential implications of defining Bitcoin in that way.
The point may be moot, as the defendant’s attorneys have indicated that they will move to withdraw their motion to dismiss the charges, and prepare for trial. The defense has reportedly cited Siragusa’s skepticism as a determining factor in their current strategy. The defendant’s lawyers have also emphasized that their client is not in any way tied to the so-called dark net and has merely traded Bitcoin as others trade “baseball cards, stamps or coins."
Scott’s non-binding decision is not the first to refuse to recognize Bitcoin as money. In 2016, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Teresa Mary Pooler issued a ruling that also questioned Bitcoin's status as money, declaring that the world’s most well-known digital currency simply cannot yet claim that status.
In another 2016 case, however, Manhattan U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan suggested that the issue isn’t that cut-and-dried. She refused to dismiss charges in a case involving an unlicensed money transmission scheme, based on her determination that Bitcoins are clearly "funds" as that term is commonly understood.