Court determines bitcoin qualifies as money, leading to potential string cite

Quick Take

  • United States v. Stetkiw
  • Defendant accused of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business that did not comply with money transmitting business registration requirements
  • Defendant argued that buying/selling Bitcoin without a license isn’t a crime
  • The Court rejected Stetkiw’s arguments, which could lead to a string cite for the proposition that bitcoin is “money” or “funds” for purposes of U.S. federal law that requires licensure for money transmission businesses

Disclaimer: These summaries are provided for educational purposes only by Nelson Rosario and Stephen Palley. They are not legal advice. These are our opinions only, aren’t authorized by any past, present or future client or employer. Also we might change our minds. We contain multitudes.

As always, Rosario summaries are “NMR” and Palley summaries are “SDP".

[related id=1]United States v. Stetkiw, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16607 (E.D. Mich, Feb. 1, 2019) [SDP]

A string cite has nothing to do with string, which is something you probably only know if you’re a lawyer or went to law school. It’s a bunch of case citations that are used seriatim (that means “in order” and is also a lawyer word) to support a legal proposition. So if you wanted to say that a negligence claim requires breach of a duty to a foreseeable plaintiff, you would show how well-established that principle is by citing a whole bunch of cases, a STRING, in other words. Hence “string cite.”

Why am I going on about string cites? Because it looks like we are close to having a pretty good string cite for the proposition that bitcoin is “money” or “funds” for purposes of a U.S. federal law that requires licensure for money transmission businesses. And that’s what this new case from a Michigan federal court deals with. (If you are a regular reader of these posts you will remember we dealt with a similar issue last week under Florida law, in the Espinoza case).

This particular opinion rules on a criminal defendant’s motion to dismiss a criminal indictment and to suppress evidence. He was charged with “violat[ing] 18 U.S.C. § 1960 by operating an unlicensed money transmitting business