A legal injunction is a court order that instructs a party to do (or not do) specific things. The order is backed by the court’s power of coercion. Courts are able to coerce parties into complying with the injunctions using criminal or civil penalties. 

What are some Types of Injunctions?

There are different types of injunctions, based on its permanency and when it is issued. 

Temporary Restraining Order (TRO): A temporary restraining order is a type of injunction that is sometimes (but rarely) issued by a court before a case is heard. A TRO is really only issued in the case of an emergency.

The intent of a TRO is to maintain the status quo long enough to allow the court to hear the case. The TRO can be issued by a judge without a formal hearing, but only lasts long enough for the court to actually schedule a hearing so that both parties can state their case, usually around 14 days. 

It is intended to stop a party from taking irreversible actions until the case can be heard and will only be issued if the party requesting the TRO can convince the judge that they will suffer irreparable harm or damage without the TRO.

For example: A person alleging domestic abuse may request a TRO to ensure that the alleged perpetrator cannot contact or come near them while they wait for a court hearing on a protection order.  Another time a TRO may be issued is if two people claim ownership rights to the same house, and one of those people plans to bulldoze the house next week. The second person claiming ownership may seek a TRO to prevent the demolition until the court can decide who is the rightful owner. 

Preliminary Injunction- A preliminary injunction is another type of temporary injunction that may be issued before trial, but after the parties have a chance to be heard. This will only be issued if the party requesting the injunction can prove that they will likely prevail at trial. 

For example, if the person alleging domestic abuse can provide convincing evidence that it truly occurred. Or, if one person claiming ownership to a house can provide very good evidence that they are the rightful owner. 

In both situations, a judge may enter a preliminary injunction until the trial is concluded. The preliminary injunction prevents a party from taking irreversible action between the hearing and the end of trial. Thus, a preliminary injunction is similar to a TRO, but is only entered after a formal court hearing. 

Permanent Injunction- A permanent injunction is a permanent order from the court for a person to do (or not do) something. It can only be entered after trial and only if the party requesting the injunction can prove that not issuing the injunction would cause an “undue hardship”. Specific requirements to meet this standard differ between states. 

For example, a perpetrator of serious domestic abuse may be banned from ever contacting or coming close to their victim. Or one person claiming ownership to a home may be barred from demolishing the home, either because the property is jointly owned between the parties or because they have no ownership rights to the property. 

Why Should I Seek an Injunction?

A legal injunction should be sought if you think you may suffer irreparable harm or damage without the injunction. The injunction will utilize the power of the courts to compel a person to do (or not do) the specific thing mentioned in the injunction. 

How Do I Get an Injunction?

The exact procedure will differ based on where you live, but you generally need to file a complaint with the courts to request an injunction. An attorney can assist with the process if you are unsure of how to proceed.

When are Injunctions Ordered in Breach of Contract Cases?

An injunction to compel a party to comply with a contract may be entered if one party breaches a contract. This is called specific performance and is most often the case when a monetary award will not adequately compensate the injured party (e.g. a sales contract when the item to be sold was a rare piece of art or specific tract of land.)  

What Happens if a Party Fails to Follow an Injunction Order?

Failing to comply with an injunction court order could result in a simple admonition from the judge, monetary fines, or even jail time. As such, it is important that you comply with the requirements of an injunction, as they are legally enforceable.

Are There Any Defenses to an Injunction?

If an injunction is entered against you, there are a few defenses you may have available:

  • Unclean Hands: If the party requesting the injunction has engaged in similar misconduct as the person against whom the injunction is sought, the injunction won’t be granted.
  • Laches: Laches is when someone intentionally waits to ask for an injunction, resulting in negative consequences for the person against whom the injunction is sought. 
  • Hardship: An injunction that causes undue hardship or financial burden may not be enforceable.

How Can You Remove an Injunction?

Typically, an injunction will only be removed if the complaining party can show that the injunction does not serve its purpose or violates one of the defenses listed above. If you are unsure about the status of an injunction, make sure that it is formally removed or altered before you attempt to take action that might violate the provisions of the order.  

How Do I File an Injunction Without a Lawyer?

You do not absolutely have to have an attorney to obtain an injunction. However, it is almost always helpful to contact an injunction attorney in your area who will be familiar with the process and requirements. 

When Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer to Obtain an Injunction?

If the injunction you are seeking affects your business or source of income, then it is advisable to contact a business attorney to get the matter handled swiftly and correctly. An attorney in your area can help you resolve the issue in a way that avoids further conflict.