Like most of your friends, you do what you can to stay on the right side of the law. Nonetheless, life has a way of intervening. While no one wants to be a defendant in a criminal prosecution, how you proceed may have a significant effect on your future.

Arizona’s criminal courts are often busy places. Because trials can be both expensive and time-consuming, judges often entertain pleas. While accepting one may be an effective way to move forward with your life, not all plea bargains are good. Here are three signs you have accepted a bad plea deal: 

1. You did not understand the plea 

For your plea to be legal, you must understand it. As you probably know, though, sometimes legal documents are difficult to comprehend. If you did not understand your plea or its collateral consequences, you may have grounds to file an appeal. Further, you must willingly accept the plea bargain. If a prosecutor, judge or anyone else intimidates you into agreeing to the deal, the plea may not survive an appeal. 

2. The punishment seems too severe 

With most plea deals, you accept responsibility for criminal conduct. The plea may require you to serve a prison sentence, complete probation or comply with post-conviction registration requirements. Unfortunately, though, with pleas, the punishment does not always fit the crime. If you think your sentence is overly harsh, you may have accepted a bad plea deal. 

3. You did not commit the crime 

The criminal justice system in the United States can be extremely intimidating. After all, police officers, prosecutors and judges often have tremendous power over criminal defendants. Because plea deals tend to shorten court proceedings, innocent individuals regularly accept them. Still, if you did not commit the crime, negotiating a plea deal may not have been in your best interest.   

If you have accepted a bad plea bargain, you may face lifelong consequences. While overturning a bad plea usually is not simple, it may be your best option for getting your life back on track. Note, though, you may need to act quickly to undo a bad plea.