SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — A spokesperson for the city of Savannah, Georgia, said local officials are “adjusting” the language of its e-citations after a man thought he was issued a $1.48 million speeding ticket last month.
Connor Cato was driving home on Sept. 2 when he was pulled over by Georgia State Patrol for driving 90 in a 55-mph zone.
Cato said he knew he was going to get a “super speeder” ticket — a citation reserved for drivers traveling 35 mph (or more) over the speed limit — but he never anticipated the fine printed on his e-citation.
“‘$1.4 million,’ the lady told me on the phone,” Cato told Nexstar’s WSAV. “I said, ‘This might be a typo’ and she said, ‘No sir, you either pay the amount on the ticket or you come to court on Dec. 21 at 1:30 p.m.'”
Sneh Patel, a criminal defense attorney who spoke with WSAV, said he was shocked by the amount.
“I mean, I can’t imagine someone would have to pay $1.4 million for not showing up for a speeding ticket,” said Patel.
“At first when I was asked about this, I thought it was a clerical error,” Patel added. “But then you told me you followed up and apparently, it’s not a clerical error. But again, I have never seen something like this, ever.”
Patel said misdemeanor traffic violations in the state of Georgia cannot exceed $1,000.
“It’s a misdemeanor of high and aggravated nature, it will be $5,000,” he added. “Now, the bond amount should be relevant to that, so for misdemeanor, you wouldn’t see bond amounts over $5,000, maybe $10,000.”
Those higher bond amounts, Patel said, are usually reserved for more violent crimes or infractions, or for people suspected of skipping their upcoming court dates.
“But not $1.4 million — that’s something that goes into cases that are drug trafficking, murders or aggravated assaults, something of that nature.”
A spokesperson for the city of Savannah has since explained that the fine amount was not issued by the police officer who gave Cato the citation, but rather that it later appeared on his e-citation as an automatic “placeholder.”
“The system automatically puts in $999,999.99 as the base amount plus other costs since the only way to resolve the ticket is to appear in court,” the spokesperson said.
A judge will then decide the actual fine amount, according to the city.
Putting an incredibly hefty fine on the e-citation is also not a scare tactic, the official claimed.
“The City did not implement the placeholder amount in order to force or scare people into court,” according to the spokesperson. “The programmers who designed the software used the largest number possible because super speeder tickets are a mandatory court appearance and do not have a fine amount attached to them when issued by police.”
No explanation was given as to why the developers couldn’t input “fine to be determined in court” or “fine pending” on the e-ticket, rather than $1.48 million. The city representative, however, did appear to admit the practice could cause confusion.
“Recorder’s Court is working on adjusting the language in e-citations in order to avoid future confusion,” the spokesperson said.