Law Review: Can a key fob be a ‘deadly weapon’? |

Law Review: Can a key fob be a ‘deadly weapon’?

Our case today does not involve a dirk or a blackjack, which are deadly weapons as a matter of law. Our deadly weapon case involves a key fob.

Does anyone else prefer an old fashion key to a key fob or am I the only one?


Brian Keith Koback, a bona fide loser, walked into a rental car company office and stole a set of car keys. A customer tipped off the employee behind the desk who along with two other employees followed Koback out into the parking lot. They asked him to give back the keys and formed a wide circle around Koback to prevent him from leaving.

Koback made threatening motions and threatened to “F” them up. At one point he asked “You want the keys?” Then he “swiped” the key at one of the employees torso, like he was “throwing a punch” as was later testified. The three men backed away but then followed him in a car for about 40 minutes until law enforcement (finally) arrived and subdued Koback.

Koback testified at the trial that he found the car keys and was running from the police because he feared for his life. Never heard that before.


Koback was charged, among other things, with assault with a deadly weapon. As the courts have ruled, dirks and blackjacks are deadly weapons per se, while other objects under certain circumstances can be deemed “deadly weapons” when used in a manner likely to produce death or great bodily injury.


It turns out that all sorts of ordinary household items have been ruled by courts to be deadly weapons depending on how they were used in the commission of a crime. There is the screwdriver case, the sharp pencil to the victim’s neck case, and my personal favorite, the plastic butter knife, which fortunately failed because the blade broke (of course), but a butter knife can be a deadly weapon.


The Fourth Appellate District Court of Appeal cited an internet website dedicated to women’s self-defense advising women to hold a key “between your thump and forefinger in order to use it like a short knife that you can use to cut an assailant’s face,” rather than “holding it between your fingers like an improvised knuckle duster.”

According to the research, most assailants are at close range, so rather than try and make a punch, use a key between your thumb and forefinger and try and scratch your attacker’s face in a cutting action. Makes sense, not sure it works with a plastic key fob.


The Court of Appeal ultimately determined that given the threats and swing by Koback, he was indeed using the key fob as a deadly weapon. Bad news for Koback as he had a prior strike. State prison for 14 years.


Here’s my question for Brian Keith Kobach. If you rob a bank with a mask over your face, you still only have a slim chance of pulling off the heist. If you steal a key from a rental agency and walk away without the car, you surely should ask, “What is my end game here?”

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOA’s, contracts, personal injury, accidents, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at or

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