SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — A Chatham County resident is seeking answers after receiving a $1.4 million speeding ticket after being pulled over in September.
“I mean I can’t imagine someone would have to pay $1.4 million for not showing up for a speeding ticket,” said criminal defense attorney Sneh Patel.
Connor Cato was driving home on Sept. 2 when he was pulled over by Georgia State Patrol for driving 90 in a 55-mile-per-hour zone.
Cato says he knew he was going to get a super speeder ticket, but he never anticipated the fine would be over $1 million.
“‘$1.4 million,’ the lady told me on the phone. 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.'”
Patel told News 3 he’s never seen anything like this before.
“At first when I was asked about this, I thought it was a clerical error. But then you told me you followed up and apparently it’s not a clerical error,” he said. “But again, I have never seen something like this, ever.”
Patel says you never pay over the maximum amount for traffic violations, and misdemeanor charges in the state of Georgia can only go up to $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 just to ensure if it’s a crime that involves violence or if you’re anticipating they will commit more crimes, it would set a higher amount or if you think they won’t show for court, you set a higher amount.
“But not $1.4 million — that’s something that goes into cases that are drug trafficking, murders or aggravated assaults, something of that nature.”
WSAV heard back from the city of Savannah late this afternoon. Here is what they had to say.
- Explain the fine placed on super speeder tickets in the city of Savannah.
- The fine for a super speeder ticket is set by the judge at the court appearance. The balance reflected in the e-citation is a placeholder, not a fine. Anyone that is caught speeding 35+ miles per hour receives the placeholder because it is a mandatory court appearance.
- Why is the set amount for drivers caught going over 35mph $1.4 million dollars?
- The balance reflected in the e-citation is a placeholder. Super speeders are required to go to court. 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.
- How long has the practice of putting fines of that amount on speeding citations been enforced?
- The balance reflected in the e-citation is a placeholder, not a fine. The amount is not enforced. This has been in practice since 2017 when a new system was put into place.
- What is the fine usually told to people when they appear in court?
- The amount of the fine is determined by the judge during adjudication and cannot exceed $1,000 plus state mandated costs.
- What’s the GA statute that allows the court to apply a fine that large?
- The balance reflected in the e-citation is a placeholder, not a fine. Depending on the case, the judge can determine what penalty to impose.
- Have you seen an increase in the number of people coming to court since this practice started?
- The City does not have that data available.
The City did not implement the placeholder amount in order to force or scare people into court. 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. Recorder’s Court is working on adjusting the language in e-citations in order to avoid future confusion. – City of Savannah spokesperson