A Cease and Desist Letter, also known as a Stop Harassment ( or Demand ) Letter, is a written notice that formally requests an individual or business to stop (terminate) engaging in unlawful or unwanted behavior (desist).
Usually, the letter will threaten legal action if the problems continue.
What is a Cease and Desist Letter?
A Cease and Desist Letter is a written communication that lets another party know that they are engaging in an action or behavior that infringes on your legal rights and requests that this action or behavior stop.
It demands the recipient immediately stop the specified infringing actions and refrain from repeating them in the future.
In many cases, a cease and desist may be all it takes to prevent further infringement of your rights. The threat of legal action is often sufficient to avoid any other controversy.
However, a lawsuit may be necessary if the letter fails to accomplish its intended goal.
Legal action may be taken against a breach of contract, for example, or a trademark infringement, when the party ignores your request to cease and desist in the illegal actions or behaviors infringing on your rights.
Is a Cease and Desist Letter Legally Enforceable?
A Cease and Desist Letter is not legally enforceable, but it is an effective tool to protect yourself or your business. The letter warns another party that you may take legal action unless they stop engaging in a specific behavior.
You don’t need to be a lawyer (or hire one) to send someone a Cease and Desist Letter.
You might successfully convince or intimidate your harasser or infringer into stopping their behavior without a lawsuit, saving you time, money, and effort by sending a Cease and Desist Letter.
How to Write a Cease and Desist Letter
To write a Cease and Desist Letter, you can:
- Use our step-by-step Cease and Desist Letter document builder
- Download a template and fill in the blanks
- Write the entire letter yourself
While you don’t need to be an attorney or expert to write and send a Cease and Desist Letter, it may be beneficial if your case is complicated. If you write your own Cease and Desist Letter, make sure the letter sounds as intimidating as possible.
You’ll need to include the following information in your letter:
- Recipient: the individual or business who needs to stop the harassment, defamation, unreasonable debt collection, or copyright/trademark infringement
- Sender: the individual or business requesting that the recipient stop their unlawful behavior
- Unlawful behavior: a detailed description of the behavior and why it’s unlawful and harmful
- Legal action: a warning that you will initiate a lawsuit if the behavior doesn’t stop
- Date: the date when the letter is sent to the recipient
Frequently Asked Questions
You should serve a Cease and Desist Letter via certified mail if you’re sending the letter yourself. You’ll receive a return receipt proving the offending party received your letter. This will provide you with peace of mind and allow you to gather evidence against the offender if you need to take legal action.
While certified mail is the best option, you can also serve the letter via email, an attorney, or even in person. No matter how you send it, experts recommend keeping your copy of the Cease and Desist Letter and the return receipts.
How you respond to a Cease and Desist Letter depends on whether you violated someone’s rights. You could respond by:
- ceasing the behavior outlined in the letter (if you’re clearly in violation),
- replying with a letter explaining why you won’t comply with the letter (if you’re not in violation), or
- ignoring the Cease and Desist Letter (if you feel it’s not serious).
Receiving a Cease and Desist Letter is a stressful experience. Remember that it’s often the initial response by an offended party, so you must carefully consider how to respond. If you choose to respond, always be respectful, professional, and polite.
View the letter as an opportunity to verify whether you are or aren’t in violation of someone’s rights. You can then choose to ignore them, open a dialogue with them, or try to negotiate an agreement outside of court.
There’s no legal penalty or repercussion for ignoring a Cease and Desist Letter, but you risk the sender beginning legal proceedings against you if their claims are legally sound.
However, if you’re confident that the letter’s content is inaccurate or unenforceable, you can safely ignore a Cease and Desist Letter.
Still, it’s better to respond with a letter explaining your position and reason for non-compliance. Whether you ignore or respond to the letter, the other party may continue to send correspondence.
Sending a Cease and Desist Letter
Suppose a person or organization violates your legal rights. In that case, you must send the appropriate Cease and Desist Letter.
You may most commonly need to send a Cease and Desist Letter for harassment, debt collection, trademark or copyright infringement, or defamation.
A Cease and Desist form can also be used in response to an NDA contract breach, violation of a non-compete agreement, and patent infringement.