The credibility of Internet addiction has become a legal issue in both civil and criminal courts. The president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers indicated that there has been a notable rise in the number of divorce cases involving cyberaffairs and online addiction over the past year. Furthermore, the issue of Internet addiction has played a significant role in child custody hearings. Frequently, such Internet abuse leads to neglectful behavior on the part of the custodial parent, often times the mother, leaving the non-custodial parent to fight for full custody. Finally, criminal courts have seen a rise in the number of cases involving sexual misconduct, online pedophilia, online child pornography, and cybersexual addiction. These cases usually evaluate the role of electronic anonymity in the development of deviant, deceptive, or criminal acts.
Dr. Kimberly Young, Founder and President of the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery, has provided forensic consultation in the following ways:
- Conducted psychological evaluations for clients suspected of being addicted to the Internet.
- Provided written affidavits to support the scientific validity of Internet addiction.
- Provided expert testimony to support the scientific validity of Internet addiction.
Dr. Young has testified at a Daubert Hearing held in Wheeling, West Virginia in the case of The State vs. Russell. The trial court is vested with the authority and responsibilities to serve as "gatekeeper" of evidences to screen scientific theories to make sure they are scientifically valid and reliable. The vast majority of scientific theories, usually medical, are typically not challenged as being unreliable and are admissible through judicial notice; however, the newness of Internet addiction may facilitate a Daubert Hearing to determine its scientific validity. The theory was accepted in this case and will be persuasive to other courts.
- To contact Dr. Young:
Center for Internet Addiction Recovery
P.O. Box 72
Bradford, PA 16701
An article in the Los Angeles Times (1/22/99) explored the new type of Cyber-crime: "Man charged under new cyber-stalking law:"
"A North Hollywood man has become the first perpetrator to be prosecuted under California's new cyber-stalking law. Gary S. Dellapenta, a 50-year-old security guard, has been charged with stalking, computer fraud and solicitation of sexual assault. After his romantic advances were rebuffed by a woman he met at church, he proceeded to post ads in her name on America Online, Hotmail and other Internet sites that described fantasies of being gang-raped. When people responded, he revealed personal information about her, from the address of her apartment to her physical description, her phone number and how to bypass her home security system. Law enforcement officials have predicted that such crimes will proliferate, aided by the decrease in personal privacy and the anonymity of cyberspace."