Former megachurch pastor Brian Houston pleaded guilty in a Southern California court to driving under the influence of alcohol and has been sentenced to three years of probation and $140 in fines. He must also complete an alcohol program, enroll in victim impact counseling, and attend self-help meetings.
Houston, who was arrested on Feb. 26, 2022 in Newport Beach, California, was charged with two separate counts of driving under the influence of alcohol and driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more.
The first charge relates to Houston’s visible impairment due to alcohol consumption, and the second relates to the measurable result of a breathalyzer or blood test. Penalty for the second charge, which relates specifically to Houston’s blood alcohol content at the time of his arrest, has been stayed, meaning that a sentence will not be imposed until after Houston completes an appeal process.
This is significant, as Houston reportedly tested at 0.20%, nearly twice the legal limit and an amount subject to harsher penalties, sometimes including jail time.
The level of intoxication experienced at 0.20% blood alcohol content has been described as “blackout” drunk and can be characterized by “gross disorientation to time and place” and the need for “assistance to stand or walk.”
After news of Houston’s arrest broke earlier this year, the former pastor took to social media to address the scandal, expressing that he took “full responsibility” for the incident.
“I made the foolish decision to drive just 2 or 3 hundred metres (yards) to park the car and I am grateful to God that no damage or injury occurred,” Houston wrote. “At the time it seemed like all hell had broken loose within Hillsong Church and I was under immense pressure and emotional strain. Clearly that is not an excuse, and I take full responsibility for my actions.”
The “hell” to which Houston referred was his year-long forced sabbatical from Hillsong Church, which came in the wake of the Hillsong global board becoming aware of more than one instance in which Houston had allegedly acted inappropriately toward women, as well as his allegedly chronic problem with mixing prescription anxiety medication with alcohol.
When Houston announced his sabbatical in January 2022, he explained that he would be taking time off to focus on defending himself against criminal charges for allegedly covering up the child sex abuse of his late father.