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What are the different uses for a Cease and Desist Letter?

A Cease and Desist Letter can be used to stop just about any action you believe may be violating your rights. In effect, it operates the same way a legal demand letter would in a lawsuit. It sets forth the problem and proposes a solution to avoid going to court to enforce the sender’s rights. Here are some common ways that Cease and Desist Letters are used:

1. Stop contact from debt collectors.

You can send a Cease and Desist Letter to demand certain debt collectors stop phone calls or other contacts, as permitted by law. Once the collector receives your letter, the only further communication they may have with you is to confirm receipt of your letter and to communicate legal notices as authorized by law. 

2. Stop use of a trademark, copyright, or other intellectual property.

When an unauthorized person uses your trademarked or copyrighted material, or other intellectual property, you may take action to stop its use and demand payment. You may notify the user of their infringement on your rights or their violation of a Non-Disclosure Agreement through a Cease and Desist Letter. The letter may demand the recipient stop using your intellectual property and can also demand money damages and other relief.

3. Stop harassment.

You can also send a Cease and Desist Letter to stop someone from harassing or stalking you. It can help protect your privacy as well.

A Cease and Desist Letter effectively operates as a warning to the harasser that legal action is imminent unless the offending behavior immediately stops. The letter itself does not have any legal authority, meaning that the police cannot enforce your letter. If your harasser gets more aggressive in response, you may need to seek a restraining order or contact the police to report criminal violations. As these are often sensitive situations, talking to a lawyer before sending this sort of Cease and Desist Letter is a good idea to understand the risks and explore possible options.

4. Stop slander, libel, or defamation.

You can demand that someone stop talking or writing about you if that communication is untrue and harms you, your reputation, or your business. While the letter does not have any legal authority, it demonstrates that you want the defamation or harmful communication stopped, and that you will take legal action if it is not. You may want to indicate why the statements are false in your Cease and Desist Letter, and demand damages if you have suffered financial losses or other harm.

5. Stop boundary encroachments.

If a neighbor or another party is doing something that impacts your property, a Cease and Desist Letter may help. The letter can demand your neighbor stop certain actions that violate your rights. Some examples may include playing the drums in the middle of the night, parking on your property, or building a fence over the property line. 

Do Cease and Desist Letters really work?

Cease and Desist Letters do not have any legal force beyond the threat of future legal action by the sender. Legal disputes can often be resolved, however, just by telling the recipient that you will assert your legal rights if they do not stop. They are, in many cases, the first and last attempt to resolve a legal dispute before filing a lawsuit.

For many people, receiving a Cease and Desist Letter can be unnerving. It can force them to examine their actions and evaluate whether they are offending your legal rights. It may prompt them to ask a lawyer about the law. As a result, they are often effective tools to avoid lawsuits when drafted properly.

In the case of debt collection or intellectual property disputes, a Cease and Desist Letter signals the need to stop certain actions. Failure to stop may lead to other legal consequences. As a result, these letters are very effective in these situations.

What’s the difference between a Cease and Desist Letter and a cease and desist order?

Unlike a Cease and Desist Letter, a cease and desist order comes from a judge and it does carry legal authority. It has the power of the court behind it and can be acted upon by the authorities.

Failing to comply with a cease and desist order means that the violator could pay civil fines or damages. In some cases, particularly those involving harassment, continuing harassing activities could result in jail time. To obtain a cease and desist order, you will need to follow state or local law to file the correct documents with the court. The process can be rather complicated and will frequently require presenting evidence to the court.

Can I send my own Cease and Desist Letter?

Yes. Anyone can send a Cease and Desist Letter. Depending on the legal issue, there may be specific language that you need to use. Getting your letter reviewed by an attorney is a smart thing to do as it will give you the confidence that you’re on solid ground in case you need to negotiate a compromise or need to move forward with the threatened legal action. 

What can I do if a Cease and Desist Letter does not work?

In most cases, a Cease and Desist Letter is the final communication before you start a lawsuit or take other legal action. If your Cease and Desist Letter is ignored or makes matters worse, you will likely need to take legal action. You may ask the court for a cease and desist order or restraining order to stop the other party’s actions. You may also seek money damages, and pursue other legal claims that may not have been outlined in the letter.

To learn more about using a Cease and Desist Letter to resolve a legal dispute, talk to a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney for specific guidance.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.


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