If you live in fear of another person, taking action to stop the abuse is probably at the top of your mind. But what can you do when someone chooses to harass, threaten, verbally abuse, or cyberbully you? Depending on your situation, you have multiple legal options for retaliation when someone harms you or your business. Let’s look at why you would send a cease and desist letter in NC.
What is a Cease and Desist Letter?
A cease and desist letter is a way of letting someone know that you will take legal action if they do not stop their bad behavior. This type of letter is a warning shot that you are serious about using the full extent of the law to find relief.
You can take legal action for multiple kinds of behavior from another person in North Carolina. These destructive behaviors include all sorts of domestic violence, stalking, cyberbullying, posting or sharing private information about you, some types of verbal abuse, and other harassing behaviors. You may also be frustrated with another person for invading your privacy, breaching a contract, or slandering your name.
Threats and Harassment
Sometimes, it isn’t easy to know what someone’s intentions are. However, words do matter. People often mean what they say. If someone uses words or actions that make you afraid of what they will do, there are laws you can use to fight back.
Illegal violent behaviors that don’t involve actual physical violence include:
- Threats or intimidation that makes you fear future harm
- Harassment that causes severe emotional distress
- Threatening to use weapons or other objects to hurt
Cyberbullying is also illegal in many cases in North Carolina and includes these behaviors:
- Building a fake profile or website
- Posing as you in an internet chat room, an email message, or an instant message
- Following you online or into a chat room
- Posting or encouraging others to post private, personal, or sexual information about you
- Copying or asking others to copy or give unauthorized information about you
- Signing you up for a pornographic site, email lists, junk email, or messages
- Posting an actual or doctored image of you (as a minor) on the Internet
- Accessing, altering, or erasing any computer network, computer data, program, or software, including breaking into a password-protected account or stealing passwords
- Using a computer system for repeated, continuing, or sustained electronic communications, including email to a minor.
If there is no physical violence but instead a level of emotional abuse, you still have legal options to stop the person’s behavior toward you.
Sending a cease and desist letter to let them know how you will take action in the future is undoubtedly warranted unless you want to take action now. Anytime someone uses words or actions to scare you on purpose, they need to understand that you won’t tolerate abuse.
Any assault, including verbal, is a type of abuse. It may be difficult to take full advantage of the laws meant to protect you from verbal abuse unless the offender threatened bodily harm or harassed you.
However, a firmly worded cease and desist letter can often cause a person to think twice before engaging in verbal abuse again. Most people do not know what the law has to say about verbal abuse and may feel threatened by any possible legal recourse on your part.
According to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, examples of verbal abuse may include:
- Threatening to hurt you or others
- Threatening to disclose your sexual orientation
- Controlling what you do and who you see in a way that interferes with your work, education, or other personal activities
- Threatening to tell others personal information
- Using technology to track, monitor, or frighten you
- Threatening to have you deported
- Stealing your belongings
- Destroying your belongings
- Constantly criticizing you or calling you names
- Constant put-downs
- Making you feel afraid
Stalking does not always include threats of violence. Rather, according to North Carolina law, it includes when someone takes action on more than one occasion to:
- Knowingly harass and cause you to fear for your safety OR
- Cause you substantial emotional distress. (2)
It includes any pattern of behavior where someone uses any means of communication, including other people, to make repeated unwanted contact with you or harass you. The connection could even just be watching you or sending you a message of some type.
Stalking behaviors include following you, keeping up with your schedule for every hour of the day, filming you without your permission, or threatening you. Stalking could also include someone constantly disturbing your property. There are many ways that a person can stalk another.
If you are not yet ready to file a No Contact Order or a DVPO, a cease and desist letter could send the right message to end the intrusions upon your life.
In stalking cases, always consult with professionals before having an attorney draw up a letter. You should know that there are laws specifically written to protect you from stalking. It is crucial to take advantage of stalking laws to the fullest extent if someone’s behavior is truly scary.
Even if you have experienced physical violence, there are sometimes reasons why you may not want to involve law enforcement or the court system immediately. Some obviously violent illegal behaviors include:
- Hitting, kicking, or shoving
- Using weapons or other objects to hurt
- Any sexual offense
If you’re ready to take official legal action, filing a No Contact Order or a Domestic Violence Protection Order may be your best protection in these cases. Speaking with an attorney experienced in violent situations can help you decide what the best next steps are for you.
Regardless of what legal action you take, you may also want to consider speaking with a counselor at an abuse hotline or visiting with someone at a resource center. You can find out more about what is happening in a relationship and how to handle it all at NCDomesticViolence.com
What Does a Cease and Desist Letter Consist Of?
A formal cease and desist letter is usually written by an experienced attorney who fully understands the laws in North Carolina. The letter includes what statutes you will use when you contact law enforcement or choose to take the offender to court for damages or a restraining order.
A cease and desist letter’s purpose is to let the offender know that you fully understand how to legally shut down their behavior using the law and judicial system. Your letter is a courtesy to someone who most likely does not deserve your courtesy.
A cease and desist letter makes bad behavior clear to an offender so that there is no mistaking their actions as illegal. If the behavior continues despite the letter, you may choose to press charges or pursue a restraining order with no qualms.
After sending a cease and desist letter, you can know that the offender fully understands the illegality of their actions. This can also help in the future if you have to take legal action. A court does not take it lightly that someone received a cease and desist letter and then continued to harass you afterward. It may make it easier to succeed in future legal action by laying the groundwork.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROTECTIVE ORDER (50B)
If you have a “personal relationship” with the offender, you can seek specific forms of protection under a Domestic Violence Protective Order depending on the offense committed against you.
A DVPO grants law enforcement the power to charge the offender criminally if they violate the order. This type of protective order is available if you have a personal relationship with the offender.
NO CONTACT ORDER (50C)
To file for a Civil No-Contact Order, you must NOT have a “personal relationship” with the person who harmed you, and you must have been the victim of “unlawful conduct,” which includes stalking.
Law enforcement has less ability to enforce this order than with a DVPO. However, the 50C does order the offender to stay away from you. In addition, if someone continues to contact you after you have a 50C, law enforcement may be able to charge them with felony stalking.
Should I Send a Cease and Desist Letter?
If you face threats or harassment of any kind, an attorney or counselor with extensive experience in abusive situations can shed light on your future path. Many abusive kinds of behaviors need immediate legal action to protect you and your loved ones.
However, other types of bad behaviors may only need a well-written warning from an attorney. An offender who understands the law may fear the involvement of law enforcement after receiving a cease and desist letter.
In addition, there are many reasons why someone may not want to involve the legal system or law enforcement initially. In those cases, a cease and desist letter is a good first step in trying to accomplish the goal of just being left alone and living your life in peace without the effort and energy it takes to file formal legal action.
Consulting with an experienced attorney who understands the law and the legal climate where you live can help you see options clearly. A well-written letter from your attorney to an offender asserts that you are not afraid to press charges.
At Scharff Law, our experienced domestic violence attorneys understand that there may be a time when a cease and desist letter is appropriate to discourage harassment, stalking, and other disturbing behaviors. However, because of our experience working with abused partners in relationships and survivors of stalking situations, we also understand when to use North Carolina laws to create safe spaces for survivors. Contact us today to find out how we can listen, advise, and help you.