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The Supreme Court will weigh in on an important privacy issue for the digital age: whether the police need a warrant before using a global positioning system device to track a suspect's movements.

The justices said Monday they will hear the Obama administration's appeal of a court ruling that favored a criminal defendant. The federal appeals court in Washington overturned a criminal conviction because the police had no warrant for the GPS device they secretly installed on a man's car.

Other appeals courts have ruled that search warrants aren't necessary for GPS tracking.

The Justice Department argued that warrantless use of GPS devices does not violate the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches. It also said prompt resolution of the divergent court opinions is critically important to law enforcement.

A three-judge panel of Democratic and Republican appointees unanimously threw out the conviction and life sentence of Antoine Jones of Washington, D.C., a nightclub owner convicted of operating a cocaine distribution ring.

Police put the GPS device on Jones' Jeep and tracked his movements for a month. The judges said the prolonged surveillance was a factor in their decision.

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