What Is an Injunction?

An injunction is a court order requiring a person or entity to either cease doing or else start doing some specific action.

There are main three types of injunction: temporary restraining orders, preliminary injunctions, and permanent injunctions.

Key Takeaways

  • An injunction is a legal ruling by a judge that mandates an individual or other entity to either stop or start some action.
  • The three main instances of an injunction or restraining orders, preliminary (temporary) injunctions, and permanent injunctions.
  • Cease and desist orders are a common type of injunction that demands an individual or entity to stop some activity.

Understanding Injunctions

Restraining orders and preliminary injunctions are typically issued early in a legal action when the court agrees that doing so may prevent harmful actions committed by a defendant in the future. Restraining orders, for instance, are often used to prevent a defendant from having contact with a plaintiff. Preliminary and permanent injunctions are issued based on evidence that is presented by a plaintiff in a civil case.

An example of a preliminary injunction might be when a married couple owns a business and is going through a divorce. Perhaps there is a dispute as to who owns or controls the business and its assets. If the husband tried to make unilateral business decisions, the wife might file for a temporary injunction to prevent certain business activities from taking place until the court has decided the ownership issue.

Injunctions are also used by a court when monetary restitution isn't sufficient to remedy the harm. For example, in addition to making a financial judgment against a defendant, a court might issue a permanent injunction ordering that the defendant does not participate in a certain activity or business.

Obtaining an Injunction

In order to be granted a temporary injunction, a plaintiff typically needs to show the court that they have a likelihood of prevailing on the merits of their case, can show potential injury if the injunction is not granted, can demonstrate that the potential injury outweighs whatever damage the injunction may cause the opposing party, and that the benefit or harm to the parties is equitable.

In order to be granted a permanent injunction, the plaintiff will need to demonstrate having suffered an irreparable injury, that monetary damages alone are not adequate, that the order is warranted considering that balance of hardships between the parties, and the order would not harm the public interest.

Example: Cease and Desist

A cease and desist order places an injunction on a company or person prohibiting the activities that are deemed suspect. A cease-and-desist order may take the form of a temporary injunction until a trial can be held to determine the outcome or a permanent injunction after the trial concludes.

Whether temporary or permanent, a cease and desist order is legally binding. Such an order is issued by a government agency or court when it has been convinced that there is reason to believe illegal or harmful activity is taking place requiring the offender to stop the activity. Further action, such as a trial, may be needed, or the order may be permanent, depending on the situation.