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Hillsong Founder Brian Houston Pleads Guilty to DUI, Gets 3-Year Probation

By Josh Shepherd
brian houston drunk driving DUI
Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston has pleaded guilty to drunk driving in southern California. (Video screengrab)

After first pleading not guilty to drunk driving charges, disgraced Hillsong founder Brian Houston has pleaded guilty to the charges and received three years’ probation, $140 in fines, and other penalties.

As previously reported by The Roys Report (TRR), Houston was arrested in Newport Beach, California, on February 26, 2022, and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. An enhanced charge alleging Houston was driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .20—more than twice the legal limit, known as “blackout drunk”—was later added by the Orange County District Attorney’s office.

Houston initially pleaded not guilty to the charges. But on April 11, 2023, Houston changed his plea to “guilty,” according to documents filed in the Superior Court of California in Orange County. An additional charge of failure to display two license plates on his vehicle has been dropped. 

For the initial charge of driving under the influence, Houston was fined $140, given a three-year probation, and mandated to participate in a court-designated first-time alcohol and drug offender program. Specifically, Houston is required to attend victim impact counseling and participate in Alcoholics Anonymous or a similar program for one year. 

The enhanced charge related to Houston’s blood alcohol content has been stayed. This means the court won’t impose a sentence until after Houston finishes an appeal process.

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Days after the DUI arrest in February 2022, Houston resigned as global senior pastor of Hillsong Church, after an internal investigation found he had acted inappropriately toward two women. According to Hillsong leaders at the time, alcohol and medications had played a role in Houston’s misconduct. 

Logo for Hillsong Church (Courtesy image)

In a statement, Hillsong Church said that its board and leadership “did not become aware” of the DUI charge against Houston “until after he had resigned as pastor of Hillsong.” The church added: “As he was no longer on staff, this was a personal matter for Pastor Brian to deal with.” Hillsong co-founder and Houston’s wife, Bobbie, was also dismissed from church staff roles. 

Two other legal matters involving the Houstons are also pending. 

In March, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission launched an investigation, after whistleblower documents revealed alleged mass money laundering, tax evasion, and fraud at Hillsong under Brian Houston’s leadership. Houston has claimed those charges are “either out of context, misleading, or false.”

Houston also faces an ongoing criminal trial in Sydney, Australia, that began in December 2022. The court is seeking to prove that, from 1994 to 2004, Houston intentionally covered up his father’s sexual abuse of a child and only offered information to police after his father died in 2004.

A government inquiry found that Houston became aware in 1999 of allegations that his father Frank sexually abused a boy over several years in the 1970s. Brian allowed his father to retire quietly rather than report him to police. Frank founded Sydney Christian Life Centre, which merged to become Hillsong Church under Brian’s leadership.

Houston has pleaded not guilty to the charge of concealing the serious indictable offense of another person. The case is adjourned until June, when final oral arguments will be presented. A ruling by the Magistrate is expected soon after. If convicted, the court could sentence Brian Houston to a prison term of two years or more.

Superior Court of California in Orange County – Defendant: Houston, Brian – April 20, 2023



Freelance journalist Josh Shepherd writes on faith, culture, and public policy for several media outlets. He and his family live in the Washington, D.C. area.



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2 Responses

  1. Being a celebrity pastor is stressful!
    Another day in the Life of Brian. Maybe he should settle down with a real job and focus on his own personal life, making amends and getting sober. Sounds like the responsible, healthy thing to do but somehow, like Jerry Falwell Jr. , I don’t think he’s cut from that cloth. When you’ve been so important, it’s very hard to step out of that role.

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