What is a Cease and Desist Letter?Get a Free Consultation
A cease and desist letter is a formal written request sent to an individual or organization to stop an activity that the sender believes is unlawful, infringing on legal rights, or causing harm.
The purpose of a cease and desist letter is to demand that the recipient immediately stop the activity to avoid potential legal action being taken against them.
These letters are typically drafted by lawyers on behalf of a client whose rights are being violated, though anyone can technically send one themselves if they feel their rights have been infringed upon.
The letter will identify and describe the problematic behavior or activity that the recipient is engaging in.
It will state clearly that the activity must cease immediately or further legal action will be taken, which may include monetary damages or filing a lawsuit.
The letter may cite specific laws, regulations, or rights that are being violated by the activity.
What are Cease and Desist Letters For?
The goal is for the letter to persuade the recipient to stop the unwanted behavior once they receive the cease and desist letter.
However, if the activity continues despite the letter, the sender can then take the issue to court by suing the recipient.
Some common situations where cease and desist letters get sent include cases of copyright or trademark infringement, defamation, misrepresentation, disclosure of trade secrets, and harassment.
In Florida, there is no legal obligation to comply with a cease and desist letter, but ignoring the letter typically strengthens the sender’s case if further legal action is pursued.
Overall, a cease and desist letter serves as a formal warning that requests compliance before escalating the matter legally to resolve the issue.
Common Uses for Cease and Desist Letters
Here are some common situations where a cease and desist letter is utilized:
- Copyright or trademark infringement.
- Defamation – When false statements are published that damage someone’s reputation or business.
- Disclosure of confidential information or trade secrets.
- Harassment – When someone is inflicting emotional distress or discomfort through repeated unwanted contact.
- Breach of contract – When an individual or company is not fulfilling the terms of a legal agreement.
Can You Ignore a Cease and Desist Letter in Florida?
There are no automatic consequences for ignoring a cease and desist letter in Florida, unless the letter is issued by a government organization.
However, it is generally not advisable to disregard a cease and desist letter.
If you refuse to comply with the demands in the letter, the aggrieved party may follow through on their threat to file a lawsuit against you.
The letter itself does not impose any legal penalties, but will serve as evidence that you were informed that your actions were unlawful or damaging.
If you continue the activity after being notified, it demonstrates willful or intentional infringement, which can strengthen the claims made against you in a lawsuit.
Ignoring the cease and desist letter also gives up the opportunity to resolve the matter confidentially before it escalates to litigation.
Complying with the demands or negotiating a compromise shows a good faith effort on your part and may lead to a prompt resolution without going to court.
While not legally mandatory, compliance with a cease and desist letter can protect you from legal liability and prevent the matter from escalating.
If you receive a cease and desist letter and don’t want to comply, consult with an attorney to fully understand your rights and potential exposure if a lawsuit is filed against you.
Thoughtful legal guidance can help determine if there are valid grounds for challenging the claims.
Cease and Desists Issued by the Government
Florida government agencies like the State Attorney General’s office and Department of Consumer Protection may issue cease and desist notices regarding legal matters that fall under their jurisdiction, such as consumer scams.
If you are issued a cease and desist letter by the Department of Legal Affairs, you must either comply or submit an appeal within 10 days after all administrative action has been concluded.
Under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA), failure to comply with a government cease and desist notice may carry penalties of up to $10,000 for each violation.
Who Can Send a Cease and Desist Letter?
Attorneys typically draft and send cease and desist letters on behalf of clients who feel their rights have been violated in some way.
Because they are licensed legal professionals, letters sent by lawyers tend to carry more weight and legitimacy.
However, in Florida any person or organization can send a cease and desist letter if they believe someone is infringing on their rights.
For example, a photographer or author could send a letter demanding someone stop using their work without proper permission and licensing.
Companies commonly have their in-house legal counsel or executive officers send cease and desist letters when their business interests have been harmed, like in cases of trademark infringement or theft of trade secrets.
Celebrities, politicians and other public figures may use the letters to protect against defamation or improper usage of their name or image.
Consulting an attorney is recommended since letters sent by lawyers are generally more persuasive.
What Are the Benefits of Sending a Cease and Desist Letter?
A cease and desist letter does not force compliance in Florida, but there are still benefits to sending a cease and desist.
You may want to send a cease and desist letter to:
- Put the recipient on formal notice.
- Prompt voluntary compliance.
- Start negotiations.
- Strengthen your court case.
- Increase the amount of damages awarded.
- Seek a court order – If compliance does not occur voluntarily, the sender of the letter may seek a court injunction or restraining order. Then, violating the court order would carry contempt of court penalties.
- Preserve your legal rights – Sending a formal written request shows the sender’s good faith effort to resolve matters directly. Not sending a cease and desist could weaken a court case.
What to Do if You Receive a Cease and Desist Letter
Don’t ignore it. Although a cease and desist doesn’t carry the same legal weight as a court order, you should take it seriously.
Carefully review the details of the letter so you understand exactly what behavior you’re being instructed to stop and any deadlines that you’re given.
Contact an attorney familiar with Florida civil law for advice on the validity of the claims in the letter.
Based on their counsel, you can decide whether to comply with the demands, try to negotiate a compromise, or formally challenge the claims in the letter if you believe they’re unfounded.
If you think the letter was unjustified, be sure to respond in writing before the deadline specified, laying out your position and making it clear that you believe you have not acted unlawfully.
If you’re uncertain that your actions were completely legal or if you’re in a legal gray area, changing your behavior to become fully compliant with the law may resolve the situation and protect you from legal liability.
In any case, keep detailed records, including copies of the letter you received and your response, as well as any evidence related to the claims.
Most importantly, if you choose not to comply with a cease and desist letter, be prepared for the possibility of the other party filing a lawsuit or taking other formal legal action.
Get advice from an attorney to protect your interests and minimize any risks and liabilities going forward.
Florida Statute §501.208 – Cease and desist orders; procedures.