Court docs suggest Brian Houston was in ‘blackout drunk' stage during DUI arrest

Hillsong Church's founder, Brian Houston, appears on stage during Hillsong's 2014 conference in New York City at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Hillsong Church's founder, Brian Houston, appears on stage during Hillsong's 2014 conference in New York City at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. | Hillsong Church

Court documents from Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston's February 2022 DUI arrest allege that he had a blood alcohol content of 0.20% or more, which addiction experts classify as the "blackout drunk" stage.

Records from the Superior Court of California in Orange County show that Houston was arrested on Feb. 26, 2022, less than a month before he resigned as global senior pastor of Hillsong Church in March 2022 in the wake of revelations that two women had made complaints of misconduct against him in the last 10 years.

Houston, who resides in Australia, was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% or more, and failing to display two license plates on the vehicle he was driving.

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A complaint signed by Deputy Orange County District Attorney Katie Burwick reviewed by The Christian Post alleges that Houston had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.20% or more by weight pursuant to Section 23538(b)(2) of the Vehicle Code. Court records show that Houston pleaded not guilty to the charges at a hearing on Tuesday and is now scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on June 13.

"When an individual reaches this stage of intoxication, they are completely disconnected from themselves in mind and body," explains addiction specialists at Tree House Recovery. "Disorientation sets in along with the inability to move properly. Nausea often turns into vomiting at this stage. Dangerously, this is a stage of intoxication where an individual is at risk for choking on their own vomit."

When contacted for comment Wednesday, Houston's high-profile attorney Scott C. Thomas, a former prosecutor, told CP, "no comment."

According to the Kraut Law Group, DUI defendants hit with an enhanced charge under Section 23538(b)(2) of the Vehicle Code usually "face harsher penalties" from the court if they are convicted.

"Drivers who are convicted of the DUI and this enhancement are required to take a longer alcohol education program and often face harsher penalties," the law group explains on its website. "A BAC of 0.20 percent is two and a half times the legal limit and drivers who have high BACs are more likely to cause collisions while on the road. As a result, the California legislature has increased penalties for drivers who drive under the influence with high BACs, even if they have no prior DUI offenses."

A judge may also require defendants to "attend weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings as a condition of release or may even require that the defendant wear an alcohol monitoring bracelet while the criminal case is pending," the law group noted.

If convicted, Houston will be "required to complete the nine-month AB1353 alcohol education program, as opposed to the three-month program that most first time offenders with low BACs are required to attend."

Defendants in Houston's situation may also be sentenced to "more onerous terms of probation, which can include jail time, community labor or community service, extensive court fines, AA meetings or programs such as the Hospital and Morgue ('HAM') program or the MADD Victim Impact Panel ('VIP)" the Kraut Law Group notes.

Houston also cannot have "unrestricted driving privileges restored until the class is completed" if he is required to do the longer class.

In a recent statement released on Facebook, Houston stated that the arrest happened at a very difficult period in his life and called his decision to drive drunk "foolish."

"I made the foolish decision to drive just 2 or 3 hundred meters (yards) to park the car and I am grateful to God that no damage or injury occurred," Houston said. "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."

More than a year removed from the arrest, Houston said he is "now in a much stronger place" thanks to the support of his family and "trusted ministry friends."

"Thirteen months have past (sic) since that incident occurred and I am now in a much stronger place within my spirit and soul. I am grateful to God for his sustenance and grace, and I am grateful for trusted ministry friends who, along with Bobbie and our family, have offered their constant love and support in a very difficult and disruptive season," he said. "We are looking forward together to a fruitful season ahead."

A March 23 statement from Hillsong Church Global and Australian boards published on the global megachurch network's website said Houston formally resigned as global senior pastor after revelations that two women had made serious complaints of misconduct against him in the last 10 years.

Hillsong Church said Houston violated the church's pastoral code of conduct by entering the hotel room of an unidentified woman for 40 minutes while under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs during the church's annual conference in 2019.

Houston and the woman both said they did not recall what happened. Hillsong Church's Global Senior Pastor, Phil Dooley, suggested at the time that their accounts of what happened were not entirely reliable because they were impaired by alcohol. Houston was also under the influence of anxiety medication.  

The church also revealed that Houston exchanged an "inappropriate text message" with a staffer in 2013. According to Dooley, the text message was "along the lines of, 'if I was with you I would like to give you a kiss and a cuddle or a hug.'" The staffer resigned shortly after. Hillsong Church blamed Houston's actions in this case on "sleeping tablets."

Last November, Houston blamed public statements made by the church's board for his abrupt resignation instead of any "mistakes" he made in ministry. He argued that the board's statements led to public speculation and allowed "people's imagination to run wild and draw their own conclusions" about his departure from Hillsong, including allegations that he is an alcoholic or addicted to sleep or anxiety medication.

"In my heartfelt apology to the people of Hillsong Church and to the Church at large, I spoke about alcohol having not proven itself to be my friend. But sadly that has built a narrative out there that I'm an alcoholic," he said. "The stories about my 'alcoholism' are the result of gossip, whispering and innuendo. The narrative that I'm an alcoholic is false. In fact, I've been told by an expert therapist that I do not display the behaviors that are typical of an alcoholic."

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