A cease and desist is an order or request to halt an activity (cease) and not to take it up again later (desist) or else face legal action. the recipient of the cease-and-desist may be an individual or an organization. in the u.s. the term is used in two different contexts. a cease-and-desist order can be issued by a judge or government authority, and has a well-defined legal meaning. in contrast, a cease-and-desist letter can be sent by anyone, although typically they are drafted by a lawyer.