If you are like over ⅓ of the United States population, chances are you have experienced some form of social media slander, harassment, generalized slander, or defamation of character. When this occurs, it is normal to feel angry, overwhelmed, upset, or even wanting to seek revenge.
However, all are encouraged to take the high road. How do you do that, though? A good first step in alleviating your problem is to consider a cease and desist letter.
When approaching the situation in a mature and respectful manner does not always pan out as intended, it’s time to take the next step and write your cease and desist letter. But, what is it? How do you write it? Do you need an attorney to do so?
What are they and what can they be used for?
Cease and desist letters are a written warning sent to the party causing harm that notifies that if they do not stop the mentioned actions, further action and potential legal ramifications will be taken.
These letters are not a legally binding order against another party. Cease and desist letters, also, do not convey or hold jurisdiction for a lawsuit.
Essentially, the letter is notifying the opposing party that what they are doing is illegal and needs to halt before legal steps follow.
The following are the most common areas of concern where cease and desist letters are effective in use:
- Breach of Contract
- Copyright Infringement
- Debt Collections
- Employee Non-Compete Compliance Issues
- Invasion of Privacy
- Social Media Slander
- Trademark Infringement
Cease and Desist Letter Common Uses Explained
- Breach of Contract and Employee Non-Compete Compliance
Oftentimes, this type of cease and desist letter is used for employment or business contracts. For example, if an employee was hired under a contract and your competitor hired the same employee in an effort to harm your business in any manner, you may want to send a cease and desist letter. The letter author would want to inform the competitor of the Tortious Interference of Contract taking place and how there are major legal penalties if they do not stop.
- Copyright and Trademark Infringement
Copyrights and trademarks give ownership of titles, names, logos, writings, books, music, etc. to the owner of the copyright or trademark. If a party is using your material without receiving your consent first, you may want to consider sending a cease and desist letter. Sending the letter will inform the opposing party that you are serious and will seek legal action if usage does not stop. It is vital that you do not waive any current right to a lawsuit against the opposing party. Even if they stop usage, you may still be entitled to financial compensation.
- Debt Collectors
Debt collectors can often be vicious and persistent as an attack dog. On top of being stressed about finances, now you have to worry about the party attempting to take the money you don’t have. By providing the debt collector with a cease and desist letter, the harassing phone calls and abrupt visits to your home can be halted. Once a debt collector receives your letter, they can, legally, only contact you once more. This final contact can only be to explain that they are ceasing communication.
- Stalking, Harassment, and Invasion of Privacy
If you have fallen victim to stalking, harassment, or invasion of privacy, it is understandable to be overwhelmed and in fear. Personal attacks should not be taken lightly. In certain circumstances, sending the offender a cease and desist letter can provoke them further. However, in a majority of situations, when receiving a cease and desist letter, the offender will understand that you are serious and mean business. Many offenders will determine that the action against you is not worth the potential legal ramifications. If the offender does not stop, the cease and desist letter sent may be used for evidentiary purposes in court.
- Slander, Social Media Slander, and Defamation
Slander and defamation are occurring when an opposing party is making statements against yourself or your business that are false and damaging. It can be damaging to your reputation, profit, emotions, and more. It is useful to send a cease and desist letter, in these circumstances, to request the opposing party to stop falsified written and oral statements. It is important to include why the statements are false and a correction to the statements in the letter.
Do you need an attorney to send a cease and desist letter?
The usage of an attorney for cease and desist letters is recommended and can be helpful in a variety of situations. However, going through an attorney for the letter is not necessarily needed.
Legally, any person can send a cease and desist letter to another party. This is partly due to the letter not being a legal order to stop the actions. Although, if you are foreseeing a lawsuit in the future, it is good practice to meet with an attorney for guidance.
Even though it is possible to go through the lawsuit process against another party on your own, utilizing an attorney can ensure all legal aspects are covered and often results in more damages awarded. Further, even if you are awarded damages, the defendant is able to file an appeal that can result in further legal costs and filings. An attorney has the knowledge to efficiently navigate the appeals process.
The attorney can also advise you of your full rights. With this being said, the attorney will give you a clear picture of whether or not you are in the position to receive legal compensation. In some instances, a cease and desist letter may not be an appropriate first measure of action.
Cost of Cease and Desist Letters
The cost of a cease and desist letter will vary depending on whether you are drafting it yourself or using an attorney.
If drafting the letter yourself, the cost will be relatively inexpensive. The costs when drafting it without an attorney may include:
- Template Costs (if you do not use a free or self-created letter template)
- Stationary Costs
- Postage Costs
However, if you are using an attorney, the costs can get expensive. Most attorneys will offer a free consultation to initially discuss your case and the recommended course of action. When an attorney is hired to draft the letter, one can expect the following average costs for a cease and desist letter from an attorney:
- Solo-Practicing Attorney: $750 – 1,200 to draft and send demand letter
- Partnership Law Firms: up to $1,500 to draft and send demand letter
- Large Legal Firms: $3,000 – 5,000 to draft and send demand letter
As you can see, the cost factor between writing your own cease and desist letter is dramatically lower than using an attorney. However, depending on the situation, using an attorney and paying the costs will benefit in the long run.
Cease and Desist Letter Do’s and Don’ts
- Letter tone
First and foremost, the writer is to watch their tone used in the letter. It is not recommended and, more often than not, unsuccessful to threaten a lawsuit from the start. The letter should clearly state the writer’s intentions and requested action to be taken while being written in a gentle, yet firm, and respectable tone.
- Avoid empty threats
Similar to threatening a lawsuit upfront, do not make empty threats in your cease and desist letter. If the letter threatens to have the opposing party in a courthouse by a specific date and time, the writer should be prepared to follow through with such statements. Without taking action on your threat, the opposing party will not take further communication seriously.
- Be specific on your demand
Finally, a cease and desist letter should not be vague. The writer should have clear and detailed reasoning and examples behind the demand. Cease and desist letters are serious and may lead to legal action down the road. By clearly stating your demands, the opposing party has a clear image of what is expected.
- Finish with a strong ending
It is important to end your cease and desist letter with a strong ending. It is recommended to briefly recap the wrong action that has been performed and the corrective action requested before additional legal measures are taken. Upon completion of the letter drafting, the sender will want to send the cease and desist letter by certified mail.
- Use certified mail
Sending through certified mail provides proof that the opposing party has received your cease and desist letter. Ultimately, it is optimal when the opposing party complies with your cease and desist letter. However, if the requested stopped-action continues to occur, it is safe to assume that the opposing party received your letter and is aware of your intent to pursue additional legal action.
In summation, it is recommended to speak with an attorney in regards to your individual needs for a cease and desist letter. Although, if you choose writing your own is the correct route in your situation, we are hopeful this article will give you clear guidance.