When Judge Frank Caprio realized that enforcing the state laws would leave a grieving mother without any money, he decided to overturn his verdict and wished her well as she navigated her hardships.

While there are many law practitioners today, not all display the honor and empathy of Judge Frank Caprio. Serving as the Chief Municipal Judge in Providence, Rhode Island, Caprio has also been a member of the Rhode Island Board of Governors.

First appointed in 1985, he has been re-appointed six times by the mayor of Providence and the Providence City Council. The individuals who appear in his court face real-life issues, often televised on the show “Caught in Providence.”

Despite the cameras, Caprio emphasizes that his role is to dispense justice, not entertain. People often voluntarily appear before him to contest tickets they believe were wrongly issued or to present extenuating circumstances in hopes he might reconsider the fines. The outcome usually depends on his discretion.

In a 2017 hearing, a woman named Andrea had accumulated up to $400 in parking tickets from 2004, 2005, and 2006. Caprio was taken aback by her situation and started by dismissing these old tickets. Andrea admitted she was unaware of them.

The Judge then addressed more recent infractions: a $25 ticket in 2008 on Friendship Street, another $25 ticket in 2014 on the same street, and four additional tickets on her Nissan.

As Caprio listed these, Andrea began to cry, struggling to speak. She explained that her son, murdered the previous year, had an outstanding $75 debt which social security transferred to her, cutting her checks until she resolved it.

This led to her first Nissan ticket. The second occurred while she was in court fighting eviction; the broken parking meter left her with another fine. She lost the case and had to move.

Further, she received a $100 ticket while seeking legal help, finding it upon her return from getting a chance at Dunkin’ Donuts. The Judge then inquired about her son and social security.

Andrea recounted how Social Security stopped her check over the $75, despite her son’s death, leaving her with additional bills from the ticket received during her visit.

Tearfully, Andrea revealed she couldn’t pay the $400 fines, still dealing with social security, struggling to pay for her son’s funeral, and having just paid her rent. Her son had been murdered by her brother, adding to her anguish.

Taking a moment to consider, Caprio acknowledged her struggles and stated he would balance the equities to protect the city’s interest. Andrea expressed how empty her experience left her. Caprio then reduced the fine from $400 to $50 and asked how long she needed to pay it. She responded she had the money with her.

Caprio, concerned, asked if paying would leave her destitute. She confirmed she would have only $5 left. Caprio, refusing to leave her penniless, overturned his verdict, dismissing all fines. He wished her well, expressing hope that her situation would improve.