LEGAL DICTIONARY

Cease and Desist

Cease and desist is a legal process that is commonly used to resolve a dispute without resorting to a court case, litigation, or in some cases even an attorney. It is an instrument that is used to inform an individual that they are breaking the law and that if they continue to do so they will suffer legal consequences.

A cease and desist can come in two different forms. It can either be presented as a letter or as an official order from a court.

In this article, you’ll learn the most common ways that a cease and desist letter or order can be used. You’ll also discover the difference between these two types of legal instruments and the consequences of not following them.

What Are the Common Reasons For Sending a Cease and Desist?

A cease and desist order or letter is sent out to notify a person or business that they are conducting illegal activity and for them to stop it immediately. The illegal behavior in question could be due to any of the following reasons:

  • Slander and Libel: You may send a cease and desist in order to stop another party making untrue, misleading, or defamatory statements about yourself or your business.
  • Intellectual property infringement: If you have caught a business or individual infringing on proprietary copyrighted, trademarked, or patented items for any reason, a cease and desist will notify them of your rights of ownership of the asset.
  • Debt collection harassment: It is illegal to harass a debtor for a lack of payment under state and federal law. Therefore, if you receive phone calls, threats or verbal abuse, or other harassment from a debt collector you can send a cease and desist to inform them of your rights.
  • Breach of contract: If you have made a contractual agreement with a person or business that has been violated, a cease and desist offers a method of resolution without suing.
  • General harassment: If you are receiving harassment such as stalking, incessant phone calls, or other unwanted behavior you can send a cease and desist to create a written record of the bad conduct and to push for the harasser to halt their actions.

What is a Cease and Desist Order?

A cease and desist order is a legal instrument that is issued by a court or government authority. It is better known as an injunction or restraining order, it is legally binding and makes a firm command for the perpetrator to cease any illegal actions immediately.

The offending individual is compelled by law to respond in acknowledgment to this order and will be prosecuted if they contravene the terms of its requirements. These are severe legal procedures that can normally only be created and issued by a government or court office.

Cease and Desist Order Vs. Letter

A cease and desist letter is quite different from a cease and desist order. A letter ordering the halt of illegal activity can be written and sent by anyone, although in many cases this can also be done by an attorney.

This form of letter works to notify the perpetrator that the writer is considering legal action if they continue in their illegal behavior. However, disobeying this legal document doesn’t carry the same serious ramifications of breaking a cease and desist order.

How to Create a Cease and Desist Letter

Anyone can write a cease and desist letter, although care must be taken when doing so. This kind of document needs to carefully detail the wrongdoing that has been committed and set clear expectations for future conduct. Therefore, a standard cease and desist letter will normally include the following:

  • A detailed description of the illegal activity
  • A section indicating rights held by the aggrieved party
  • A clear warning about the next legal steps that will be taken in the event of non-compliance
  • A request for response from the reader
  • Ideally, the letter should also include a statement whereby you indicate you do not waive any rights to sue for prior misconduct in the future

Once the document is complete it should be signed, dated, and sent. The letter should be forwarded via certified mail to ensure it’s safely received by the individual in question.

Writing a cease and desist letter doesn’t require the help of an attorney. However, when creating your own document it’s often best to use a professionally designed letter template in order to complete this task to avoid any significant errors.

What Happens if You Ignore a Cease and Desist?

The consequences of ignoring a cease and desist notification will mostly depend on the type of document you receive. However, in either case, the threat of litigation lingers.

If you receive a cease and desist letter you are not legally bound to respond or take action. Therefore it is sometimes possible to safely ignore a cease and desist letter although there is still the risk that the injured party could take legal action against you and call in an attorney.

On the other hand, a cease and desist order is legally binding. Thus ignoring this more robust court-mandated instrument can carry severe legal penalties such as contempt of court.